London: The UK High Court on Thursday began hearing an application for permission to appeal filed by alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla against his extradition to India to face charges of match fixing.
Chawla is wanted in India to face charges of cricket match-fixing dating back to 2000 and has been fighting against his extradition on human rights grounds.
Former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had signed off on a District Judge’s order in favour of extradition in February last year, giving the 50-year-old time to seek an appeal against the decision.
Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hansie Cronje in 2000, was present at the Royal Courts of Justice in London as Lord Justice David Bean and Justice Clive Lewis heard the application.
Chawla’s lawyers want to establish that their client has a statutory right to appeal against the District Judge’s order sent to the Home Secretary for a sign off.
That submission has been challenged by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, on the grounds that it is a disguised attempt at reopening the entire case.
“Nobody wants this case to go off to another day after all the delay,” said Lord Justice Bean, indicating that the court is likely to hand down its decision on permission to appeal speedily.
Following an initial trial, Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London had concluded in October 2017 that while Chawla had a prima facie case to answer, his human rights could not be guaranteed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he was to be held.
This ruling was challenged in the UK High Court by the CPS, on behalf of the Indian authorities.
In a judgment handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice in London in November 2018, Lord Justice Leggatt and Justice Dingemans upheld the Indian government’s appeal and directed the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to review the order against Chawla and proceed with an extradition order.
The High Court judges accepted the assurances provided by the Indian government that the accused will be accommodated in a cell to be occupied exclusively by him, with proper safety and security and complying with the personal space and hygiene requirements the court expects.
India had also made further guarantees on medical facilities and protection from intra-prisoner violence in the jail.
In January last year, the magistrates’ court issued a fresh order in favour of Chawla’s extradition, which was sent to the UK home secretary, who must formally sign off on the order under the India-UK Extradition Treaty.
According to court documents in the case, Chawla is described as a Delhi-born businessman who moved to the UK on a business visa in 1996, where he has been based while making trips back and forth to India.
After his Indian passport was revoked in 2000, he obtained a UK passport in 2005 and is now a British citizen.
In details of the case that emerged in court, Chawla was introduced to Hansie Cronje, the late South African cricket team captain, in January-February 2000.
It was suggested to Cronje, by Chawla and another person, that he could make significant amounts of money if he agreed to lose cricket matches.
Money was paid to Cronje at the time of the pending South African tour to India.
The tour took place in February-March 2000, with Chawla, Cronje and others conspiring to fix cricket matches in exchange for payment, with Chawla reportedly playing a central role, including direct contact with Cronje.