The mother and uncle of a young B.C. woman murdered in Punjab in 2000 have lost their last-ditch attempt to avoid extradition to India as reported by the Vancouver Sun.
The B.C. Court of Appeal has dismissed an application from Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha to have an extradition order against them stayed because they claimed there was an abuse of process.
The two are alleged to have been involved in the so-called honour killing of Sidhu’s daughter Jaswinder “Jassi” Kaur, who ignored her family’s wishes and married a poor rickshaw driver while on vacation in India in 1999.
After the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously against the accused brother and sister in September 2017, the RCMP escorted Sidhu and Badesha from their B.C. jails to Toronto, where they were placed aboard a flight to India.
But the extraction was “dramatically halted” before the plane disembarked because lawyers for Sidhu and Badesha filed a last-minute court application asking for a review of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s decision to surrender them to Indian authorities.
Appeal Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Justice Sunny Stromberg-Stein dismissed that request for a judicial review Tuesday.
They said the minister’s decision not to review “new” evidence provided by the defendants about conditions in Indian prisons was reasonable.
“The minister was right to express concern for an effective, expeditious extradition process and respect for the principle of finality,” the appeal court justices said in their written reasons. “It was reasonable for the Minister to conclude that it was in the interests of justice to surrender the applicants.”
Appeal Court Justice Bruce Butler agreed with his colleagues.
The ruling said the Maple Ridge residents have had seven years to present their legal arguments in Canadian courts.
“The applicants are charged with the most serious crimes and have had the opportunity to challenge their extradition over a seven-year period: their submissions implicating India’s prison system have been considered by two Ministers of Justice, this court and the Supreme Court of Canada,” Bauman and Stromberg-Stein wrote.
The judges agreed that there was an abuse of process when Badesha and Sidhu were covertly taken from their jails in September 2017 and transported to Toronto for extradition without being able to talk to their lawyers.
“They were literally at the door of the Delhi-bound plane, literally about to be handed into the custody of the Indian police officers,” Bauman and Stromberg-Stein said.
“There is a sense of palpable frustration apparently motivating the attempted covert surrendering of the applicants in an operation that would deny their ability to review this last step in the proceeding. That motivation would be understandable in a segment, perhaps a large one, of Canadian society.”
But the Canadian government must always play fair, the judges said.
The government conduct in this case has had “a very serious adverse impact on the integrity of the justice system.”
But the conduct was not so egregious as to allow a stay of proceedings.
“This is a close case but we conclude the balance favours denying the stay,” they said.
“The charges these applicants face are the most serious in our criminal justice system and the interests of India, and of our own community, in seeing them heard in court on their merits is very substantial. Indeed we suggest overwhelmingly so.”
Jassi and her husband, Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, were travelling by scooter in Punjab on June 8, 2000 when they were attacked by a group of armed men. Sukhwinder was seriously injured. Jassi was forced into a car and later found dead on the bank of a canal. Her throat had been cut.
Eleven others in India were also charged in the murder. Seven were convicted and four were acquitted, but four of those found guilty later won on appeal.