Saturday, January 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India, France sign extradition treaty
Ranvir Nayar

Paris, January 24
India and France have finally signed an extradition treaty after nearly a decade of negotiations.

The document was signed by Indian Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and French Justice Minister Dominique Perben at the Justice Ministry Office here today.

Mr Advani told mediapersons: “This treaty will ensure that terrorists and criminals who seek to destabilise our two pluralistic and democratic societies will be brought to justice.”

Mr Perben said: “The signing of this treaty marks the conclusion of a process of intensive cooperation between France and India in judicial matters.”

The two ministers also made references to several other treaties that are currently under negotiations. These include treaties on the exchange of foreign prisoners and mutual legal and civil aid to each other’s citizens.

Though both sides had reached a broad agreement on the text of the extradition treaty quite rapidly, the talks stalled on some of the finer points.

The first major hurdle was the identification of criminal activities that would call for extradition. Due to differences in the penal codes of India and France, both sides had to narrow down activities that would be covered by the treaty.

Finally, they agreed to use texts of international treaties that both France and India have acceded to, as a way of arriving at a consensus.

France is among the last major European Union (EU) members to sign the treaty. Britain, Germany and Italy have already signed similar pacts with India.

However, the extradition treaty is far from watertight. First, India had to make a concession to the French by saying that it would not impose death penalty on anyone whose extradition is being sought by India.

French and European laws do not permit extradition of any person who may be facing the death penalty in the country seeking extradition.

Another major loophole in the treaty, at least from the Indian point of view, is that French law bars the government from extraditing any French nationals.

This precludes the possibility of any French national being sent to India for crimes he may have committed. But it also means that a criminal could come to France and acquire French nationality to escape extradition.

Earlier, Varadarajulu, alias MVR, against whom at least 13 cases involving financial scams were registered in India, allegedly fled from the country and finally went to France. Here, he married a woman to get a French passport in the name of Louis Jalu in March 2001, ending all prospects of his being sent back to India.

Advani met Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin on Thursday at Hotel de Matignon, Raffarin’s official residence in the heart of Paris.

This was the first meeting Mr Raffarin had with any high-level Indian politician since his government came to power after elections last June.

Mr Advani raised the issue of cross-border terrorism being waged by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Raffarin said he would be leading a 170-member delegation to India next month and his meeting with Mr Advani was a useful stepping-stone for the visit. IANS


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