Feb 24, 2022

Bringing Fugitive Criminals to Justice: How does Extradition work?

Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana, a key accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, has opposed his extradition to India, arguing that he has previously been acquitted of the offences for which his extradition is sought.


Chhota Rajan, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Bannanje Raja – They are all high-profile people who fled from India to foreign countries after committing crimes in our country. 


How does India deal with fugitive criminals?

The answer is extradition. Extradition refers to the official transfer or delivery of a person from one country to another, so that the formal authority over the person shifts to the country where they are transferred. The person who is transferred is either someone accused of a crime or a convicted criminal in the country to which they are being delivered. The crime for which the person is being transferred should also be a crime under the law of the country which is transferring the person.


What is an extradition offence?

Generally, an extradition offence can be any offence for which the punishment is imprisonment for at least one year, under the laws of India or the laws of a foreign country. However, if India has an extradition treaty with another country, the extradition offences are listed in the treaty itself. 


Who is a fugitive criminal?

A fugitive criminal is someone who is accused or convicted of an extradition offence but has escaped to a foreign country from the jurisdiction of the country of conviction. The law regulates the extradition of fugitive criminals to and from India. For example, if ‘X’ commits a crime in the United States and then escapes to India to avoid being punished for the crime, ‘X’ is a fugitive criminal.


How do we bring back fugitive criminals from other countries?

A country can make a request to another country to extradite a person so that the requesting country can appropriately deal with their crimes. An extradition request for an accused can be initiated in the case of under-investigation, under-trial and convicted criminals.


The law regulates extradition of fugitive criminals to and from India, and India has entered into extradition treaties with countries like the UK, USA, Bangladesh, etc. for the extradition of fugitive criminals.


Can India make an extradition request to any country, even without an agreement?

Yes, it is possible for India to make an extradition request to any country. If we have an extradition treaty with another country, the foreign country has an obligation to consider our extradition request. If India does not have an extradition treaty in place, the foreign country will consider the request keeping in mind its domestic laws and procedures.

In case of urgency, India may request the temporary arrest of a criminal even before submitting an extradition request. A provisional arrest request is usually made when there is a possibility that the criminal may flee the country.


Who can request the extradition of a fugitive criminal to India?

The Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Ministry of External Affairs is the Central Authority that processes incoming and outgoing extradition requests. Requests for extradition on behalf of India can only be made by the Ministry of External Affairs, which formally submits the request for extradition to the respective foreign country through diplomatic channels. Extradition is not available at the request of members of the public.


Does India extradite its own nationals?

Yes, we allow Indian nationals to be extradited to foreign countries from India. However, in doing this, our country follows a dual system based on reciprocity. This means that an Indian national can be extradited to a foreign country only if that country also allows the extradition of its nationals to India. For example, consider that India has an extradition arrangement with a country ‘Y’. If Y does not permit the extradition of its nationals to India, India will also not allow the extradition of any Indian national to Y.