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UK’s first extradition to India - Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel to Stand Trial for Gujarat Riots

On the 22nd September 1992, Britain and India signed an extradition treaty. But, for the previous twenty-four years the United Kingdom had not extradited any of the individuals India had requested. On Tuesday 18th October 2016 the United Kingdom made history by extraditing Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel. The flight left Heathrow airport Tuesday, arriving in New Delhi where India’s security agency was pleased to receive their first extradited individual from the United Kingdom.

The forty-year-old male was arrested in West London in August of 2016 on a Red Notice which was issued by Indian Authorities. The process of extradition moved quickly with the extradition order being signed on the 22nd September 2016 by Amber Rudd, Home Secretary. This was then followed by the surrender arrangements which were required for his departure and then ultimately his departure on the 18th October.

The Indian Security agency had been frustrated at the lack of extradition which for the past twenty-four years had been denied on various grounds. Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel’s top extradition lawyers have stated he has consented to the extradition to India where he will face charges related to the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002.

The High Commission made a statement earlier this week stating the extradition was set for the 18th October where Mr Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, an Indian National would face trial. Indian officials flew to the United Kingdom to place Patel in custody before flying back to India with him.

The extradition relates to the following: Patel along with forty-three others is being charged under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. This offence consists of unlawful assembly, rioting and murder. Patel is charged with three counts of murder, two counts of unlawful use of violence and one count of arson. Patel’s offence is related to the post-Godhra riots in 2002. The riots, according to the Gujarat police were in Ode Village in the district of Anand. Patel was arrested in India following the riots but whilst on bail fled to the United Kingdom.

One of the events Patel, along with two others, is accused of being involved with is the death of twenty-three individuals from a Muslim Community. On the 1st of March 2002, in Ode village, a house was set alight with twenty-three people inside, those inside died and Patel stands accused of their murder.

Patel’s whereabouts were unknown until the 9th August 2016 when he was traced to a house in Hounslow. The extradition unit from the Metropolitan Police Service then attended the house in West London to make the arrest, which was legal under section 71 of the Extradition Act 2003. He then instructed the best extradition lawyers available.

Patel appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on the 10th August 2016, he and his extradition lawyer stated that they were not appealing the extradition to India, he instead has consented to it.

Although the United Kingdom has extradited an individual to India, top extradition lawyers are keen to highlight that this was an exceptional circumstance and there is not going to be a change in the approach towards extraditions with India in the future.

One of the main points highlighted is how Patel consented to his extradition therefore the usual extradition process was cut short. In this case the lengthy appeals process which can often take years did not occur. Here there was only two months between his arrest and his extradition to India.

It has not come to light Patel’s reasons for consenting to the extradition, nor has it been released whether there were any special conditions related to his consent. Indian officials are pleased with the result of the extradition and are hopeful that this will set a new precedent regarding extradition. As noted above this is unlikely to be a new precedent because Patel was a unique case. Also top extradition lawyers can usually find some reason to at least argue against an extradition.

Tiger Hanif is another Indian national living in the United Kingdom who has faced the prospect of extradition to India. Hanif was wanted in relation to the Surat blasts in 1993 but he was opposed to the idea of extradition. Hanif was arrested in the Greater Manchester area of Bolton in March of 2010. Hanif’s top extradition lawyer argued at the Westminster Magistrates court in May of 2012, that if he was returned to India to face tria,l then he would be tortured in the Indian prison system. The court reviewed the conditions in Gujarat’s jails and dismissed the appeal on the grounds that they did not believe Hanif’s claims of potential torture were accurate. Hanif made an appeal after the verdict to the then Home Secretary, Theresa May. A spokesman for the Home Office in early October 2016 confirmed that there was still no update regarding Hanif’s appeal to the Home Secretary.

A number of individuals have been requested by India over the years. The individuals are accused of various crimes from financial offence to murder, but none until Patel have ever been extradited. India has found more success in asking the United Kingdom to deport certain Indian nationals but still the amount deported is low.

Recently Indian officials revoked passports for two individuals; Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi. The two individuals are suspected of being involved in financial irregularities. India sought their deportation but this has still not been agreed, highlighting the United Kingdom is still ensuring India meets certain requirements for extradition or deportation to be considered. Lawyers are considering these potential applications.

There are currently said to be around fifteen people that India are still trying to have either extradited or deported from the United Kingdom. Not all of the individuals are Indian Nationals, one recent case is that of Raymond Varley, a sixty- eighty-year-old British Citizen, wanted by the Indian government for child abuse which supposedly happened in Goa in the 1980’s. In 2014, after a strong argument by Varley’s top extradition lawyers, the judge held Varley was not to be extradited to India. The case shows the UK's general reluctance to extradite to India.