Hc Paves Way for Extradition of Priest Wanted for Sex Abuse in US
Times of India
June 27, 2013
CHENNAI: Clearing the decks for the extradition of an Ooty-based fugitive priest accused of sexually abusing a minor girl in the US, the Madras high court on Thursday upheld his arrest. The petition questioning Fr Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul's arrest had come in the way of the Centre sending him back to the US to stand trial on charge of "first degree criminal sexual conduct."
According to US authorities, Jeyapaul, 58, had sexually abused the 14-year-old girl in 2004 while he was the parish priest of a church in Minnesota. He met the girl at a youth conference in 2004 and the abuse continued till 2005, it was alleged. Jeyapaul returned to India on August 31, 2005, to be at the bedside of his critically ill mother.
Criminal charges were filed against him in December 2006 after the teenager accused him of sexual assault.
In 2011, the US embassy in New Delhi sent a diplomatic note, requesting the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to extradite Jeyapal. It said the charge against him carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in jail. The MEA, in turn, on March 8, 2011 approached the additional chief metropolitan magistrate, Patiala House court in New Delhi, to determine whether the extradition request was in order and whether a prima facie case exists against Jeyapaul.
On April 19, 2011, the MEA filed an application for arrest warrant against the priest. Jeyapaul was arrested on March 16, 2012 at Chimitahalli near Sathyamangalam in Erode district in Tamil Nadu and produced before the Delhi court on March 19, 2012. He has since been lodged in Tihar jail.
His sister P Pushpavathi approached the Madras high court, seeking quashing of his arrest on the ground that there was a delay in his production in the Delhi court after his arrest in Tamil Nadu and his continued incarceration amounted to illegal detention.
A division bench comprising Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice C T Selvam rejected the plea, after additional solicitor general of India G Masilamani pointed out that India and the US had a valid extradition treaty since 1999 and that the latter had furnished all relevant documents validating its extradition request.
Concurring with his submissions, Justice Dhanapalan, writing the judgment for the bench, said the priest's bail pleas had been already rejected by competent courts and said the MEA had enclosed all relevant documents such as note verbale (diplomatic note), extradition treaty copy, certificate of authentication signed by the Indian embassy in Washington, certificate of the US secretary of state and the attorney general and affidavits by the victim, investigator and the prosecutor.
Justice Dhanapalan said that as per Section 6 of the Extradition Act, 1962, a magistrate has exclusive jurisdiction to inquire and decide the 'extraditability' of the offences involved. Pointing out that Jeyapaul was arrested after a warrant was issued by the additional chief metropolitan magistrate, the judge said his detention cannot be termed as illegal or unlawful.
Justice Dhanapalan agreeing that a writ of habeas corpus is a very important jurisdiction in which the high courts are called upon to protect the individual liberties of citizens and prevent illegal detention, said: "It is the paramount duty of the courts to issue this kind of writ to safeguard the freedom of the citizens against arbitrary and illegal detention. But, in this case, no such factors are involved."