Supreme Court holds 1897 treaty with Chile valid

              Raps MEA, says it needs to shake off ‘colonial hangover’. Supreme Court of India (Source: AP)

Asking External Affairs Ministry to get rid of the “colonial hangover” and “laidback” approach, the Supreme Court Thursday held as valid a 119-year-old extradition treaty signed by British rulers of this country and their Chilean counterparts.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and N V Ramana held the 1897 treaty to be binding as it dismissed an appeal by a French woman, facing extradition proceedings for her alleged role in the killing of a Chilean parliamentarian in 1991. The appeal had contended that the treaty was not tenable since Indian government did not ratify it after Independence.

The bench, however, accepted MEA’s argument that subsequent notifications have validated the 1897 treaty and neither India nor Chile had ever terminated it. Further, Chilean Supreme Court had in November 2015 ruled that the treaty was in existence and in force for both India and Chile.

The apex court also held that “no illegality or irregularity can be found in the procedure adopted for the provisional arrest” of Marie Emanuelle Verhoeven. Verhoeven, 56, was arrested in February 2015 while entering India from Nepal on a valid visa, on the basis of an Interpol red corner notice issued against her.

On a contention by Verho-even’s lawyer that the notice had been later withdrawn and hence her detention was illegal, the bench said “the absence of a red notice does not preclude the Government of India from arresting a fugitive criminal and producing him or her before a Magistrate in accordance with law.” The Interpol had later issued a fresh red notice against her.

Extradition proceedings pending against Verhoeven before a Delhi magistrate, the court said, shall continue.

It also took MEA to task for its “casual” and “laid back” attitude after the court was informed that the MEA website declared that the extradition treaty between India and Chile was signed only in 2015. “It is extremely unfortunate that the official website of the Ministry of External Affairs gives misleading information…,” said the bench.

The court noted that MEA’s gazette notification mentioned the Extradition Act incorrectly as Indian Extradition Act and referred to errors in its affidavits, and said: “It is time that MEA gets over the colonial hangover.”

“It is time to realise that India is now a significant… player in the world stage. Very little attention appears to have been paid to affairs of international law …What is in issue is the nonchalant response of the Government of India on a matter concerning the liberty of an individual, even if that individual happens to be a foreign national who is in India,” it said.

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