Nations should coordinate as world faces terror threats: Supreme Court

New Delhi: Coordination among countries is the need of the hour at a time when the world is facing terror threat, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while refusing to grant interim relief to a jailed French woman, facing extradition for her alleged role in the 1991 killing of a Chilean senator.

“You know what is happening in the world. At a time when terror incidents are increasing across the world, there should be coordination among nations,” a bench comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph said.

The observations were made as the bench declined interim relief to 56-year-old Marie Emmanuelle Verhoeven, currently lodged in Tihar in the connection with the case.

Verhoeven has challenged her arrest and extradition proceedings initiated by the government at the request of Chile for her alleged involvement in the assassination of Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1, 1991 there.

“There is no middle course. We are not going to release her for the interregnum period…She is accused of a terrorist activity,” the bench said and made clear to her lawyer TR Andhyarujina that it will finally decide the plea after hearing both sides and fixed December 8 as the next date.

The bench heard brief arguments advanced by Andhyarujina and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) PS Patwalia on behalf of Verhoeven and the Ministry of External Affairs respectively before allowing both parties to file additional documents and adjourning the case.

Andhyarujina said the detention of the French woman was illegal as the red corner notice, which had led to her arrest, was later withdrawn and there was no valid extradition treaty existing between India and Chile.

The ASG opposed the contention saying there was a valid treaty existing between the two countries which has been acknowledged by the Delhi High Court in its judgement.

Earlier, the apex court had agreed to hear the plea of Verhoeven challenging her arrest and extradition proceedings in the case.

Besides seeking “immediate release”, the plea, filed through lawyer Ramni Taneja, has also sought a direction to MEA, which is pursuing the extradition proceedings on behalf of Chile, to quash the ongoing inquiry before a magisterial court in New Delhi.

The French woman has sought a direction to quash the gazette notification of April 29 and the order dated April 28, issued by the MEA recording the Extradition Treaty between India and Chile on the ground that it was unconstitutional and ultra vires of the Constitution.

“This case has serious and critical international implications and very sensitive and important constitutional implications under Indian law… The fundamental rights of the petitioner under the Constitution of India are gravely prejudiced by the mala fide acts of the Respondent No. 1 (MEA), who represents Republic of Chile in the extradition proceedings,” the plea said.

Verhoeven, arrested on February 16 this year from Uttar Pradesh on the basis of a red corner notice issued against her, is alleged to have participated in a conspiracy leading to the assassination of Chilean Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1, 1991.

Recently, the Delhi High Court has set aside the magisterial inquiry initiated by the Centre to extradite the French woman to Chile in the case.

It not only set aside the notification of May 18 this year, by which the inquiry was ordered, but also held that an earlier February 24 order of a magistrate directing her provisional arrest under section 34-B of the Extradition Act, 1962, was “without jurisdiction” and “illegal”.

The High Court, while setting aside the two orders, had made it clear that the 118-year-old treaty entered into between British Empire and Chile in 1897 was applicable to India back then and cannot be held to have automatically ceased to exist after she attained sovereignty in 1947.

It had also said that the Centre’s April 28 notification, by which the Extradition Act was made applicable to Chile in view of the treaty, did not suffer from any infirmity.

It, however, had said that the Act became applicable to Chile only after the notification was published on April 29 and thus the proceedings for provisional arrest of the woman could not have been ordered prior to that.

It had also said a magisterial inquiry could be issued only after receiving a valid extradition request and since this was not received from Chile post April 29, the May 18 order of the government directing magisterial inquiry was illegal.

The court had also said since her detention was declared illegal, it was not going into correctness of the March 5 order dismissing her bail plea.