Hong Kong appeal win gives India chance to add charges against fugitive Romi
The High Court says charges relating to escape from lawful custody are extraditable offences under Hong Kong’s bilateral agreement with India.
The Indian government has won a chance to strengthen charges against a Hong Kong resident who Delhi wants to try for his alleged role in a jailbreak in his native country four years ago.
The High Court on Tuesday concluded that charges relating to escape from lawful custody were extraditable offences under the city’s bilateral agreement with India, despite objections raised by lawyers for Ramanjit Singh, also known as Romi.
But Indian prosecutors face another hurdle of showing they have enough evidence to commit the 32-year-old for trial on three such charges over the notorious Nabha jailbreak that allowed six criminals to escape on November 27, 2016.
His case will return to the court of committal for evaluation of evidence, before Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor makes a final decision on his surrender.
Singh is already facing extradition on 18 other charges – relating to possession of firearms, assisting an offender, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – after Magistrate Pang Leung-ting of Eastern Court last year found there was a prima facie case to bring them to trial in India.
At issue was whether Pang was right in rejecting three escape charges, after finding that they were not part of Hong Kong’s extradition agreement with India.
The offence was noticeably absent from a list of 34 categories of offences under the Fugitive Offenders (India) Order.
But lawyers for the Indian government argued that the offence was covered by a catch-all clause in the list, which included “any other offences not referred to in the previous items … which are punishable by imprisonment … for at least one year … and are also offences for which surrender may be granted in accordance with the laws of both parties”.
Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau agreed, concluding the clause was intended as a catch-all.
“The effect of listing of offences is not as definite as it appears to be,” the judge observed. “By putting in [the clause], the intention of the parties must be that the list of offences is not meant to be exhaustive.”
Hence he found the offence was provided for in the extradition treaty and thereby concluded that it was extraditable under both Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and India’s Extradition Act, meeting the necessary requirements in the clause.
Wong had earlier lifted statutory reporting restrictions against committal proceedings in respect of this case upon the Post’s application.
The court previously heard Singh was accused of helping to plan the jailbreak while he was in prison with the six escapees following his arrest on June 4, 2016, for a separate case in relation to possession of firearms and fake credit cards.
Prosecutors alleged that Singh took part in meetings with the inmates, during which he said he would go to Hong Kong upon his release from custody and send funds for the purchase of firearms to be used during the jailbreak.
Singh fled to Hong Kong while on bail and reportedly remitted funds to a man in India for the purpose of the jailbreak, which saw a group of armed individuals escape.
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