The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed a writ petition filed by New York-based idol theft kingpin Subash Chandra Kapoor, now lodged in prison, challenging the State government’s decision to consolidate all idol theft cases and list them for hearing before a special court at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district.
Justice G.K. Ilanthiraiyan dismissed the petition pending in the court since 2015 for non-prosecution. After deciding to take up the case for final hearing, the judge gave the petitioner’s counsel two opportunities to advance his arguments but since none appeared for the petitioner, he chose to dismiss the case for default.
In an affidavit filed in support of the petition, Kapoor stated that though he migrated to the United States in 1974 and obtained citizenship, he also held a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card issued by the Centre. He founded an art gallery named ‘Art of the Past’ in New York and “served” in the field of fine arts for 30 years.
“My art gallery had attracted collectors, museum curators and Asian art enthusiasts” because of its strong emphasis in sculpture, painting and decorative arts from South Asia and Himalayas. However, he was arrayed as an accused in many cases booked at Udayarpalayam, Vikkramangalam, Virudachalam and a few other police stations.
The German police arrested him on October 30, 2011, on the basis of a Red Corner Notice issued by the Interpol and he was extradited to India in July 2012 following an undertaking given by the Union Ministry of External Affairs to provide facilities of international standards during his detention in Indian prisons.
Claiming that he was suffering from prostrate cancer and asthma, the petitioner recalled to filing a petition in the High Court in 2013 with a plea to transfer a couple of cases pending against him in other districts to a Metropolitan Magistrate court at Egmore in Chennai so that he need not travel long to attend the hearings.
The State opposed his plea on the ground that the witnesses were locals. Therefore, they could not be forced to travel all the way to Chennai to depose in the cases. In order to find a solution, the High Court on August 13, 2014 ordered that the petitioner could be permitted to attend the proceedings through video-conferencing.
When matters stood thus, a Government Order was issued on May 27, 2015 transferring all the cases pending against him to a special court in Kumbakonam due to an inordinate delay in hearing of those cases by the jurisdictional courts, which were burdened with many other criminal cases.
Assailing the G.O., the petitioner contended that it was inappropriate to have transferred the cases from a judicial magistrate’s court to an Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate. The government had no authority to transfer cases from a lower judicial forum to a higher forum and such a transfer “causes great hardship to me,” he had claimed.