In a twist to the legal saga surrounding Nikhil Gupta, the United States has firmly objected to his legal team’s motion seeking proof of charges against the Indian national. Gupta stands accused of conspiring to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The objection comes in response to a ‘Motion to Compel Production of Discovery’ filed by Gupta’s lawyers in a New York court, urging federal prosecutors to provide essential materials for his defense.
The US government has declared that it will only furnish the requested information when Gupta, currently held in a Czech Republic prison awaiting extradition, appears and is arraigned in a New York City court. This move adds a layer of complexity to the already intricate legal proceedings. US District Judge Victor Marrero has given the federal government three days to respond, and in their reply filed on the third day, the US government expressed readiness to produce discovery promptly upon Gupta’s appearance.
Gupta’s legal team contends that he has received no evidence or documentation beyond the indictment itself, making the ‘Motion to Compel Production of Discovery’ crucial for his defense. They argue that Gupta, undergoing repeated interrogations by US officials in Prague without the presence of legal counsel, requires access to prosecution material. The defense counsel in Prague asserts a lack of evidence beyond the indictment and calls for the court to compel the government to comply with the discovery request.
The intricate case involves allegations that Gupta conspired with an unnamed Indian government employee to hire an undercover US federal agent as a ‘hitman’ to assassinate Pannun. US prosecutors claim to possess communications between the two, wherein the plan is discussed, and a criminal case against Gupta in Gujarat is dropped. If convicted, Gupta faces dual 10-year jail terms for murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire charges. As Gupta’s extradition to the United States awaits further judicial reviews, his legal team simultaneously pursues a human rights angle, claiming violations such as forced consumption of beef and pork. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the issue, emphasizes India’s commitment to a thorough investigation, downplaying the potential impact on India-US relations. The External Affairs Ministry acknowledges the seriousness of the matter and states that relevant departments are examining the issue. The unfolding legal drama underscores the complexities at the intersection of law, diplomacy, and human rights.