Lawyer Backs ‘trial In Absentia’ For Mehul Choksi


Republic TV: As Mehul Choksi returns to Antigua and Barbuda after getting bail in Dominica, senior advocates – Vikas Pahwa and Vikas Singh differed on whether Choksi can face trial virtually for the PNB Scam. Speaking to Republic TV on Friday, Pahwa said that India must hold ‘trial in absentia’ as Choksi has agreed to face trial via video-conferencing, instead of waiting for extradition. Pahwa said that waiting for extradition would endanger evidence being washed away or witnesses turning hostile.

Lawyers differ on Choksi extradition

“Since extradition proceedings have to be initiated, it must be done as per law, no matter how grave the case is. Every accused has constitutional rights which must be protected. We waste so much time in extradition, but all over the world there is a provision to hold trial in absentia, which we should start in India. In case he is available on video-conferencing and is not absconding, we can stand trial here. No need to waste years leading to evidence being washed away and witnesses turning hostile,” said Vikas Pahwa.

Opposing Pahwa’s stance, senior SC advocate Vikas Singh said that there was no such provision of ‘Zoom investigation’. Pointing out that any accused needs to be interrogated under custody, Singh said that such interrogation was needed to ‘extract a confession’. Slamming Choksi’s allegations that he was ‘abducted by Indian authorities to Barbuda’, he asserted that Choksi will have to be extradited.

“In the criminal jurisprudence, there is no such thing as investigation via Zoom. An accused has to be interrogated in custody and custodial interrogation means the confinement in a police station, extracting the confession in that space. This (Choksi’s) statement is self-serving to gain sympathy. But it will have no impact on any court of law. He will have to come to India as and when extradition happens,” said Vikas Singh.

Choksi gets bail

On Wednesday, Choksi returned to Antigua and Barbuda after spending 51 days in custody in Dominica on receiving bail from the Dominica High Court based on the medical reports submitted in the court. While seeking bail, the PNB scam accused had attached his medical reports including the CT scan which showed “mildly worsening hematoma”.  As per the HC order accessed by Republic TV, Choksi was permitted to travel to Antigua and Barbuda for consulting neurologist Dr. Gaden Osbourne and has to inform the court of any change of doctor. Until a doctor certifies the fugitive that he is fit to stand for trial, all proceedings in the illegal entry case pending before the Magistrate’s Court will remain adjourned. Choksi has been labelled a ‘prohibited immigrant’ in Dominica.

Mehul Choksi purportedly went “missing” after going out for dinner in Antigua island on May 23 and was traced to Dominica by illegally entering the country via Toucari Beach. After his arrest, Choksi sought to be repatriated to Antigua where he enjoys citizenship but Antigua PM Gaston Browne has ‘refused’ to grant him entry in Antigua and asked the Dominican government to directly deport him to India. An eight-member team of the CBI, the ED, and the Ministry of External Affairs are pursuing the case for Choksi’s deportation. Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, have been accused of allegedly siphoning off Rs 13,500 crore of public money from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), using letters of undertaking.

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