Arti Dhir and Kaval Raijada have successfully resisted an appeal by the Government of India against the decision of Senior District Judge Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate, to discharge them from extradition proceedings. The couple are wanted in India to face six charges in connection with the murder of 11-year old Gopal Senjani.
The London-based couple travelled to India in 2015 to adopt Gopal. Ms Dhir subsequently took out an insurance policy worth approximately £150,000 in Gopal’s name. The Indian authorities allege that the couple, in conjunction with an associate, Mr Mund, arranged for the kidnap and murder of Gopal in February 2017. Gopal’s brother-in-law was also killed during the attack. Mr Mund has since been arrested and charged for his alleged role in the matter. He has made statements to police to the effect that Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada recruited him and coerced him into arranging the attack on Gopal.
On 2 July 2019, the Court refused the Indian Government’s request for extradition on the grounds that, if extradited, Ms Dhir and Raijada would face irreducible life sentences, contrary to the prohibition against inhuman or degrading punishment in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Indian authorities failed to submit further evidence on this point at that time of the hearing. Immediately prior to the handing down of the ruling, the Indian Government offered assurances about the sentence that would be imposed but the Court refused to adjourn, and Ms Dhir and Mr Riajada were discharged from extradition proceedings.
The Indian Government’s appeal in this case was refused on 6 February 2020 by Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Spencer. The Criminal Procedure Rules emphasise “expedition at all times”; in a serious case such as this, the Indian Government should have complied with directions from the court to avoid unnecessary delays. In the circumstances the court was unable to say that the Chief Magistrate was wrong to refuse to adjourn the proceedings.
It remains to be seen whether Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada may face prosecution in England and Wales, or if India is to issue fresh extradition proceedings.