Dismissing the petition filed on behalf of Nikhil Gupta, who has been accused by the United States of conspiring to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Supreme Court has said that the matter pertains to international law and it must respect the sovereignty of courts in other countries. The court also said it cannot interfere because the matter is a sensitive one and has international implications.
Mr Gupta is in prison in Prague in the Czech Republic and the United States has sought his extradition for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to commit “murder for hire”.
Hearing the petition filed by one of Mr Gupta’s family members seeking instructions being given to the Indian government for appropriate diplomatic help – including consular access and legal aid – Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, “At the outset itself, we wish to say we don’t think we can do anything in this regard or give any relief. The only intervention we can look into is consular access as per Vienna Convention, which you yourself say in the petition that you have got. The matter pertains to international law, we have to respect the jurisdiction of courts in foreign countries.”
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate CA Sundaram said, “(Give) at least some direction to the ministries. He (Nikhil Gupta) shouldn’t have been in the country at all. He has not got consular access. Petition has been wrongly interpreted. I have been given the extradition order yesterday… Legal assistance is all I am asking. An interpreter and translator also.”
Justice Khanna responded, “It is for the government to decide. If the petitioner wants to approach the government, the Centre may take it as a representation from the petitioner. It is a sensitive matter for the government also as it has international ramifications.”
Mr Sundaram pointed out that Mr Gupta has been kept in solitary confinement and that he needs the ministry’s help to defend himself. The court, however, denied relief and dismissed the petition.
In the previous hearing on December 15, the Supreme Court had asked Mr Gupta’s family to approach a court in the Czech Republic. Even in that hearing, it had made the point that this was an “extremely sensitive matter” for the Ministry of External Affairs.
What The Petition Said
According to the petition, Nikhil Gupta was in the Czech Republic on a business trip when he was illegally detained at Prague Airport on June 30. It states that there were irregularities in his arrest and no formal arrest warrant was produced.
It claims that consular access to Mr Gupta has not been granted and he has also not been given the right to contact his family in India or seek legal representation.
Allegations of torture have also been made, and the petition states that Mr Gupta faces a threat to his life because he is locked in a prison in a foreign country.
‘Got Access Thrice’
The Ministry of External Affairs had said last month that India had got consular access to Mr Gupta on at least three occasions and is extending the necessary assistance.
The US Department of Justice has charged Mr Gupta with conspiring with an Indian government official to assassinate Pannun on American soil. The Khalistani terrorist holds citizenship of both the US and Canada.
Mr Gupta is accused of attempting to hire a hitman, who turned out to be an undercover US federal agent.