Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Headley extradition depends on India's charges

David Headley, who played a big role in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks, will plead guilty before a Chicago court in the United States on Thursday. But Headley's extradition to India, the territory where he has played the biggest role in conducting terror attacks, is still uncertain.

Sources in the home ministry told that attempts to extradite Headley to India are still on and every possibility was being worked upon.

Legal experts, however, pointed out that if India wanted to avoid legal obstacles, its charges against Headley must be very different from those filed in the US.

Justice Santosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court, pointed out that the chargesheet against Headley should not be similar to the one filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI in its chargesheet has stated that they would be trying Headley on six counts including aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens during the Mumbai attacks.

Justice Hegde said that if the charges filed by the FBI and the Indian agencies were similar, India's case to extradite Headley would be weakened.

India does have an extradition treaty with the US that was signed in 1997, however our Constitution does not permit any person to be tried on the same count twice.

Article 20 of the Indian Constitution clearly mentions that the rights of a person are hit if he is tried twice in the same case and that this would amount to double jeopardy.

Sources from the Intelligence Bureau said they would wait for more leads from the FBI before proceeding with a final chargesheet.

A source from the IB said: "The US has every right to try any accused for the murder of its citizens. However, we will focus more on Headley's conducting a recee in India as a result of which the attacks on Mumbai were carried out. We hold him responsible for the death of several Indians during the attacks and also for the loss of property. He is an abettor to the crime and our chargesheet will mention that."

The charges will be different to the one filed by the FBI, the source added.

Indian legal experts also pointed out that even if Headley pleaded guilty in the US, it would not have any implications on the case in India.

"His pleading guilty will have a bearing only with the trial going on in the US. If at all India does manage to extradite him, a fresh trial will be conducted against Headley and the ongoing trial in the US will not be clubbed," a legal expert said on condition of anonymity.

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