An Indian couple living in London are fighting attempts by the Indian government to extradite them from the UK to stand trial on six charges, including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping. Arti Dhir and Kaval Raijada are alleged to have arranged for the murder of their adopted son for profit. They were initially arrested in the UK in June 2017.
Gopal Sejani (11), was abducted by two men on motorbikes, stabbed and left to die in the road. The couple were in the process of adopting him at the time of the attack and had taken out an insurance policy in Gopal’s name worth approximately £150,000.
Gopal’s brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Kardani was also killed attempting to prevent the kidnapping. Authorities in India say that there were two previous attempts made on Gopal’s life. A friend of the couple in India is one of four people arrested for suspected involvement in the crime.
In July, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate, refused their extradition on human rights grounds. While the court found that there was a “circumstantial prima facie case” against the couple sufficient to justify their extradition, if convicted they would face a double life term of imprisonment without parole. Thus, the court found there to be substantial grounds for believing that they would face a real risk of being subjected to treatment, namely a life sentence without the possibility of review, which would be inhuman and degrading, in breach of their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Senior District Judge Arbuthnot went on to state that it is not impossible for a prosecution of this matter to be initiated in the UK. It is alleged that the agreement to murder was made in this jurisdiction and there is evidence of money being sent from the defendants’ London bank account to the man who arranged the killing.
On 2 July, the date the court was due to give judgments, the Crown Prosecution Service received an assurance from the Indian government assuring the court that if extradited, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, notwithstanding the policy of no review in the State of Gujarat where the events took place, the defendants will be “eligible to apply for remission”. Due to the lateness of the assurance and the need for further submissions and expert evidence on the matter the court elected to give the judgment it had prepared but it is likely this matter will be pertinent in proceedings going forward.
The Indian government has been granted leave to appeal and that hearing is expected to take place in late January 2020. Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada have been released on bail pending the appeal.