India-Nepal extradition treaty starts moving

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : More than 50 years after India and Nepal signed an extradition treaty, New Delhi's push to ink an updated version with more teeth has finally got moving with Nepal in the final stage of drafting a new extradition act.

Nepal's Law and Justice ministry has finalised a new extradition act which will be tabled before the council of ministers by next week if things go as per schedule, according to Raju Mansingh Malla, joint secretary at the ministry.

"If it is not tabled by next week, we will have to wait till the festival of Dashain (corresponding to India's Dussera) is over (in October)," Malla told IANS.

The good news for the Indian government is that the draft agrees on the deportation of third-country nationals, a provision which is absent in the India-Nepal Extradition Treaty of 1953 and which New Delhi had been seeking to remedy.

New Delhi would also be happy at the progress made in the drafting of a new mutual legal assistance act that would be part of the new extradition treaty.

The mutual legal assistance proviso would enable Indian authorities to take statements from suspects held in Nepal through the local court and assess evidence collected by Nepal Police and vice versa.

It would also enable India to serve legal notices on people in Nepal.

However, the catch is that a cabinet nod would not lead to a new extradition treaty. The draft would then have to be placed in parliament for the approval of its 601 members.

If the Maoists, the largest party with over 30 percent MPs, oppose the treaty, it would be consigned to the backburner once again.

Even when the new act comes through, the signatories would need the approval of each other's courts to extradite suspects.

In 2005, alarmed at the growing use of Nepal for terror activities in India and the circulation of fake Indian currency, the two governments agreed to update the existing treaty and initialled an updated version.

However, since then, it had remained stuck due to the political turmoil in Nepal. In November 2008, when the then Indian external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Kathmandu, he gave the assurance that the new pact would be formally signed soon but the assurance did not fructify.

A hindrance to the treaty came from the Pakistan government that fears the extradition of its citizens from Nepal. A large number of Pakistanis have been arrested in Nepal with fake Indian currency notes and the rackets are believed to have their origin in Karachi.

Pakistan and France are also seeking to sign an extradition treaty with Nepal.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])