Maken case accused extradited

NEW DELHI, MAY 7. About 15 years after the killing of trade union leader Lalit Maken and his wife Geetanjali, daughter of the late President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, one of the prime accused in the case, Ranjit Singh Gill, was today extradited to Delhi from the United States to stand trial in the case.

A native of Ludhiana and member of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan, Ranjit Singh Gill alias Kooki had along with two of his associates, Sukhdev Singh alias Sukha and Sukhvinder Singh alias K.C. Sharma, allegedly shot dead the Maken couple at their L-106 Kirti Nagar house at about 10-15 a.m. on July 31, 1985.

After commission of the crime, he escaped to the U.S. and thus eluded the Indian criminal justice system. However, extradition proceeding was initiated against him on the orders of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Ms Manju Goel, who had issued a warrant against him on December 12, 1986.

On May 14, 1987, Gill was arrested in the U.S. and sent to the Federal Prisons. Then as India pressed for his extradition, Judge Magistrate Ronald J. Hedges allowed his extradition in February 1988. However, the order was set aside in September 1990 since the prosecution had sought his extradition in this case on the basis of his extra-judicial confession during probe into the General A.S. Vaidya assassination case.

Since this confession was disallowed by the court hearing the Vaidya case, the U.S. court also did not deem it of significance. Left with the option of either contesting the ruling or filing a fresh appeal, the Indian Government decided on the latter course of action. The extradition was subsequently allowed in May 1997 by a U.S. court.

Again, a habeas corpus application was filed by the defendent in response to which the District Judge John G. Koeltl remanded the case back to Magistrate James C. Francis on February 7, 2000. However, exhausted by the process, the defence did not oppose the case and agreed to the extradition.

The extradition proceedings of another accused, Sukhminder Singh alias Sukhi, which had been going on alongside Ranjit Singh's were also completed when he too decided to return to India. However, Sukhi - who was initially wanted in five cases including the Maken killings and General Vaidya assassination - was extradited in a case of dacoity in Udaipur.

To bring both of them back, an eight-member teamhad gone to the U.S. on May 3. The teams returned with both the accused by air via Mumbai this morning.

While Sukhi was taken to Udaipur, Gill - who is 39 years - was produced in the court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Mr. M.M.C. Gupta, at the Tis Hazari Court today.