London court hears experts’ debate over Nirav Modi .’s suicide risk

A London court has heard an expert debate over Nirav Modi’s suicide risk to determine whether he can be sent back to India to face charges of fraud.

By India Today Web Desk: The Supreme Court in London heard arguments from two leading experts in psychiatry to understand the level of suicide risk facing Nirav Modi and whether it would be daunting to extradite him to India to face charges of fraud and laundering an estimated USD 2 billion in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam case.

Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay heard from Andrew Forrester, professor of forensic psychiatry at Cardiff University, and Seena Fazel, professor of forensic psychiatry at Oxford University, in the final stages of the extradition appeal being pursued by the 51 -year-old diamond merchant.

The two psychiatrists weighed up Nirav’s level of depression, which could pose a significant or increased risk of suicide. Both revealed that they had personally assessed Nirav Modi at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, where he has been held for more than three years, and reported that he “only thinks about cutting or hanging if he is extradited”.

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The court also heard that depression is classified as a feeling of “hopelessness, worthlessness and meaninglessness” and that Nirav is currently taking prescription antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) of medium quality. His significant childhood trauma from witnessing his mother’s suicide was one of the factors put forward by the defense to try to determine that his situation would worsen if he were extradited.

He sees the world in a gloomy way because of his depression, Forrester said, when he told the court that at his diagnosis, Nirav suffers from a recurrent major depressive disorder of moderate severity and poses a high risk of suicide.

Fazel’s analysis, however, was that he appeared to be mildly depressed, which is judged by certain established criteria, such as a persistent bout of low mood and fatigue, or getting tired very easily.

He functions reasonably well, responds understandably to questions, and had none of the other criteria for major depression, such as loss of sleep, appetite or delusions, Fazel said.

The two experts also disagreed on certain immutable things in Nirav’s mental health, as Fazel pointed to depression as having a “treatable illness” would mean his condition could improve if he found conditions at Arthur Road prison. in Mumbai, where he will be held during the trial in India, not as extreme as feared.

The case is slated for a three-day hearing this week, at the end of which the two-member panel is expected to give their verdict on whether there are mental health and human rights grounds standing in the way of Nirav’s extradition to India.

Helen Malcolm, QC, who appeared before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of the Indian authorities, explained the detailed guarantees given in the case, including regular checkups, medical care, weekly family visits, daily visits to lawyers and removal of ligature points from prison that can be used for hanging.

It would be fair to say that there is an element that you would never be satisfied [with the government of Indias assurances]said Malcolm.

Edward Fitzgerald QC argued on behalf of Nirav that both experts agreed that a robust clinical plan did not exist in India and that a comprehensive plan for individual care should be agreed prior to extradition.

The judges have indicated that the case has now moved beyond asking for further assurances from the Indian authorities and that a ruling is likely by the end of the week.

If Nirav wins this Supreme Court hearing, he cannot be extradited unless the Indian government manages to obtain permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on a question of public interest. On the other hand, if he loses this hearing on appeal, Nirav can approach the Supreme Court for a question of law in the public interest, which must be filed with the Supreme Court against the Supreme Court decision within 14 days of a Supreme Court ruling.

However, this entails a high threshold, since an appeal to the Supreme Court is only possible if the Supreme Court has declared that the case concerns a legal question of general public interest.

Finally, after all options in the British courts have been exhausted, the diamond merchant can still apply for a so-called Rule 39 order from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The Supreme Court hearings follow a ruling last August by Supreme Court Justice Martin Chamberlain that arguments about jewelers’ severe depression and high risk of suicide were moot at an appeal hearing. Nirav’s high suicide risk and the appropriateness of any measures that could prevent successful suicide attempts at Arthur Road Prison were considered the focal points for the profession.

Permission to appeal was denied on all other grounds, including admissibility of evidence provided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the then UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s extradition signing. The Supreme Court also noted that the District Judges’ approach to ordering extradition in February last year in a prima facie case in the PNB fraud case was correct.

Nirav is the subject of two series of criminal proceedings, with the CBI case relating to large-scale fraud against PNB by fraudulently obtaining undertakings (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the ED case relating to money laundering of the proceeds of those fraud. He also faces two additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and intimidation of witnesses or criminal intimidation to cause death, which were added to the CBI case.

(With input from the agency)

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