Saturday, Dec 14, 2002
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
Malaysia's Attorney-General, acting on behalf of India in the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty, later filed a ``notice of appeal'' with the Court of Appeal here, even as Mr. Quattrocchi's ``right to liberty'' was reconfirmed in today's ruling by Justice Augustine Paul, who heard the ``review'' plea from December 4.
Justice Paul confirmed the lower court's order of December 2 as being ``correct in law'' and passed stinging strictures on the Indian authorities for their ``failure'' as also ``unwillingness'' to lay formal charges against Mr. Quattrocchi for determining whether or not he had committed extradition-grade offences.
The prospects of mounting a successful appeal against Justice Paul's judgment and also seeking its ``stay'' were circumscribed by the express prohibition against such a legal recourse under Malaysia's own Extradition Act, according to counsel on both sides of the extradition divide in this case. The Malaysian Government's prosecutors, who held India's brief, outlined that the only window of opportunity at this stage was to challenge Justice Paul's confirmation of the ruling which the lower court had ``summarily'' passed at the time of ``preliminary objections'' without, arguably, following the legal ``procedures''.
Justice Paul observed that no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law. As such, the absence of a formal charge, ``a bone of contention for two years'' since the extradition case was first processed in Malaysia, turned out to be the litmus test. ``The failure to supply the (High) Court (here) and the respondent (Mr. Quattrocchi) with charges is fatal'' to the plea against him.
Justice Paul said he ``cannot comply'' with the prosecution's last-minute move to seek an ``alternative'' procedure of framing charges under the auspices of the Malaysian High Court itself. First, the prosecution had ``argued strenuously'' that a charge ``need not be supplied'' as the relevant Indian Act ``does not authorise the formulation of a charge'' except ``in the presence of the respondent (in this case)'' after his interrogation, which had not yet taken place. Second, the prosecution itself had remained ``unwilling'' to prefer a charge until the final stage of the ``review'' hearings.
A charge, as required under Malaysian laws, ``is, after all, for the purpose of conducting the (extradition) inquiry and not for the purpose of the foundation for prosecution'' of Mr. Quattrocchi in India.
Sifting through the critical mass of material against Mr. Quattrocchi and citing principles of ``natural justice'', the Malaysian High Court said ``there is sufficient evidence that the respondent received large sums of money from A.E. Services Ltd.'' However, A.E. Services did not fall under the category of ``Indian agents'' against whom there was a ``prohibition'' as regards the Bofors deal. The allegation that Mr. Quattrocchi had entered into a ``conspiracy'' for committing the offence of ``corruption'' was ``unsustainable'' as he ``is not a public servant''. Moreover, corruption-related ``conspiracy is not an offence in Malaysia'' insofar as the relevant period was concerned. In the absence of a formal charge, the Judge gave Mr. Quattrocchi the benefit of the doubt as regards his alleged acts of cheating as well.
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