The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lucknow lifeline for Samira in US
I am single and unmarried — Monica Bedi

Washington, Nov. 19: Samira Jumani, Abu Salem’s first wife, has an unlikely ally in her efforts to stay on in the US to avoid the clutches of the CBI and India’s law enforcement agencies.

This unlikely ally is the passport officer in Lucknow, who in the first place, should have been the gatekeeper preventing her from obtaining a false passport from the office under his charge more than a decade ago.

The US department of justice rejected India’s request for extraditing Samira primarily on the strength of this passport officer’s testimony to the CBI.

According to Indian government documents now in the possession of the US administration as part of the extradition request, the passport officer has not at any stage directly held Samira guilty of cheating, forgery, impersonation or conspiracy in obtaining a false passport.

These plus the use of a forged document as genuine and violation of India’s Passport Act were the charges cited by Delhi in seeking Samira’s extradition from the US.

The inference is inevitable from a perusal of the extradition documents that the passport officer’s prime concern while talking to the CBI was to exonerate himself from any charge of wrong-doing.

In the process, he weakened Delhi’s case for Samira’s extradition: the US authorities are in no doubt that Samira was issued a false passport and that there were criminal acts, which were the basis for the preparation and approval of that travel document.

But it does not come across from the passport officer’s statements that Samira personally engaged in those acts.

On the contrary, there is enough benefit of doubt in the Indian documents to conclude that someone else engaged in those criminals acts, of which Samira is just a beneficiary.

For the US authorities, at this point Samira’s case becomes merely one of illegal immigration. According to latest figures, there are 10.3 million illegal immigrants in the US and Samira may be just one of them. If she used forged documents to gain entry into America, as many illegal immigrants do on a daily basis here, as far as they are concerned, it does not make a credible case for her extradition.

According to American sources, in April this year, precisely one year after India handed over papers demanding Samira’s extradition, the US department of justice, completed an exhaustive scrutiny of these papers.

Their preliminary finding was that if Samira entered the US illegally using forged travel papers or if she was in America as an illegal immigrant, the laws here on immigration ought to take their normal course. That meant that she would be deported to India as and when any immigration charges against her were proved in US courts.

They also took the view that until this process is complete, Samira is entitled to due processes of US law and the full protection of the American legal system.

This could take years: there is an unending process of appeals here in immigration cases, which enable illegal workers to stay in the US for decades.

Based on their preliminary findings, the department of justice told India that there was absolutely no case for Samira’s extradition unless Delhi could provide iron-clad evidence in support of such extreme action.

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