The Madras High Court has dismissed a writ petition filed by an American citizen, now in a prison in Cologne, Germany, to quash a non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him by a Judicial Magistrate at Jayankondam in Ariyalur district in an idol theft case.

Finding no merits in the petition filed by Subhash Chandra Kapoor, Justice K. Chandru said the warrant need not be quashed as the Union Ministry of External Affairs had clearly set out the justification for making the petitioner surrender by guaranteeing fair trial through due process of law in the country.

The petitioner was arrested in Germany pursuant to a Red Corner notice issued through Interpol so as to make him face the trial before the court in Jayankondam.

The Centre also made a request to Germany to extradite him and it was at this stage that the petitioner had filed the present writ through his power of attorney Sushma Rani Sareen.

Recalling the history of the case, the judge said 18 antique metal idols went missing from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village in Ariyalur district in April 2008.

The Udayarpalayam police registered a case on the basis of a complaint lodged by the temple's executive officer.

In 2009, the Kaladi police in Kerala arrested three individuals, Marisamy, Sriram and Pitchaimani, under suspicious circumstances. Interrogation of the trio revealed that they had stolen the 18 idols on the instructions of another accused named Sanjivi Asokan. The Kerala police shared the information with the Idol Theft Wing of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) in Chennai. The CBCID brought the three accused from Kerala to Jayankondam.

Custodial interrogation revealed that Sanjivi Asokan had a deal with the petitioner when he was staying at a luxury hotel in Chennai between May 2005 and December 2006 to steal the idols and transport them to him through Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

The idols were stolen and forged documents were created in the name of an arts and crafts firm. Fake bills were presented before the Assistant Director of Handicraft Development to obtain a certificate for exporting the idols.

The police also claimed that Rs. 1.01 crore was remitted from New York into the bank account of Sanjivi Asokan, who was arrested by the Vikramangalam police in connection with theft of eight idols from a temple at Sri Puranthan in the same district.

Keywords: idol theft case

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