India and Saudi Arabia are in talks to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain formal assistance from each other in investigations related to criminal cases.
Saudi Arabia is only among a dozen other countries that does not have either an MLAT or any other bilateral agreement with India to facilitate such investigations. India has so far signed MLATs with 45 countries, and is also in talks to finalise MLATs with Italy and Germany.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), an MLAT is “a mechanism whereby countries cooperate with one another in order to provide and obtain formal assistance in prevention, suppression, investigation and prosecution of crime to ensure that the criminals do not escape or sabotage the due process of law for want of evidence available in different countries.”
Officials in Saudi Arabia and India have now initiated discussions to sign the treaty. On November 7, India held the first virtual negotiation meeting with Saudi Arabia. The Indian delegation was led by officials from the MHA, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Law Ministry.
In the past, Saudi Arabia has deported several terror suspects on India’s request. An official said that the signing of the treaty would help in getting a conviction for an accused in a court of law, based on evidence gathered through the mutual agreement. MLATs are used to send a formal request for investigation in foreign countries for collection of evidence, examination of witness and execution of orders of attachment and confiscation of assets.
According to the MHA, in countries which are not covered by any bilateral or multilateral treaty or agreement or international convention, the summons, notices and judicial processes are served on the basis of an “assurance of reciprocity.”
On December 28, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said that the MHA had designed a new online portal on MLAT and letter rogatory (LR) requests for probe agencies.
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