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Nikhil Gupta’s Extradition Paused Till Constitutional Court Decides, Says Czech Justice Ministry

In the first week of January, the Czech high court in Prague had overruled Gupta's appeal and ordered that his extradition could go ahead.
Czech Constitutional Court. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Millenium187/Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

New Delhi: The extradition proceedings of Indian national Nikhil Gupta from the Czech Republic to the United States has been stayed till the Czech Constitutional Court gives a ruling on the complaint filed by the businessman after the High Court had given the green light.

Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic on June 30 last year based on a request of the United States for being involved in the attempt to kill a US citizen by hiring a hitman. It was subsequently alleged in an unsealed indictment by US federal prosecutors that Gupta was recruited by an Indian government official in a foiled plot to target a Khalistani separatist in New York, who has been identified through media as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

In the first week of January, the Czech high court in Prague had overruled the appeal of Gupta and ordered that the extradition of Gupta could go ahead.

The Wire had first reported that the first ruling to allow the Czech government to extradite Gupta was made by a lower court in Prague on November 23. He appealed this ruling in the High Court.

However, Gupta has got a reprieve with his defence team has now taken his case to the Constitutional Court.

“Extradition proceedings are suspended until the Constitutional Court decides on the constitutional complaint,” the Czech ministry of justice spokesperson Vladimir Repka told The Wire on Monday.

He said that Gupta had announced that it wanted to use “all available means to prevent extradition”.

One of the areas of jurisdiction of the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court is “over constitutional complaints of natural or legal persons against final decisions or other encroachments by public authorities infringing constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and basic freedoms”.

The Indian businessman’s family had appealed before the Indian Supreme Court for intervention, claiming that he had been mistreated in Czech jails and his religious dietary beliefs had been violated.

The Justice Ministry had earlier said in January after the High Court’s ruling that at the end of the entire process through the Czech judiciary, the final decision would be taken by the Justice Minister.

Till now, Gupta stands as the sole accused mentioned in the unsealed indictment from last November, whereas the Indian government official has been recognized but remains unnamed.

The charges filed by US federal prosecutors also indicated a potential connection between the thwarted plot and the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen. Canada had accused Indian government agents of playing a role in the shooting, straining diplomatic relations between the two countries. In contrast, India declared its intention to establish a high-level committee to investigate the allegations raised by US prosecutors.

Last week, the chair of the powerful Senate committee on foreign relations, Ben Cardin revealed that he had removed his ‘hold’ on the sale of armed drones to India only after White house gave assurances that the alleged murder-for-hire plot involving Indian officials would be “thoroughly” investigated.

Gupta had been questioned by US officials immediately after his arrest at Vaclav Havel airport on June 30. There was another formal interview scheduled on October 5 where US and Czech officials jointly questioned Gupta.

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