A setback in Malaysia

Published : May 23, 2003 00:00 IST

Ottavio Quattrocchi. - ANDY WONG/AP

Ottavio Quattrocchi. - ANDY WONG/AP

INDIA has lost a crucial appeal in the case in Malaysia relating to the extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, wanted by the Indian authorities in connection with the Bofors payoff case. On April 30, Malaysia's Court of Appeal dismissed India's petition challenging the High Court's confirmation of a lower court's order that ruled out Quattrocchi's extradition to India. A resident of Kuala Lumpur for several years after he left India in the early 1990s, Quattrocchi was not present in Malaysia when the Court of Appeal delivered the verdict. As soon as the High Court in Kuala Lumpur cleared him on December 13, 2002, of the likelihood of being a fugitive in law, he departed from Malaysia before the appeal against his "liberty" could be taken note of under the due process (Frontline, January 3). In the event, the Court of Appeal issued an ex parte order on December 16, 2002, that Quattrocchi's passport be impounded. At the same time, the Court of Appeal took on board India's petition, which was filed by the Malaysian government in the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty. However, the ex parte order regarding the Italian national's passport remained non-enforceable even as hearings on the appeal took place.

It is against such a background that a three-Judge Bench ruled that India's "notice of appeal... is void" and that the order about impounding Quattrocchi's passport "cannot stand". The judgment is based entirely on a strict interpretation of Malaysia's Extradition Act of 1992. The operative portion of the judgment is that "the main decision of the High Court is the confirmation of the discharge order (in favour of Quattrocchi) by the Sessions Court, which (order of December 2, 2002) we hold is not appealable" under the relevant Act. In fact, the aggrieved party, India, as helped by the Malaysian government, took the issue to the High Court through a `review' petition and not an appeal as such. Significantly, the Court of Appeal has now observed that "it is unfortunate that the determination of such important issues (be) left only to the High Court". The Court of Appeal pointed out that "if we may suggest, we think that the Legislature should consider amending the (Extradition) Act to provide for appeals in cases such as this".

P.S. Suryanarayana
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