VANCOUVER — A defence lawyer says the extradition of two British Columbia residents to India to face murder charges was challenged in court because the federal justice minister’s decision to surrender the pair failed to consider new information.
Michael Klein said Surjit Singh Badesha and Malkit Kaur Sidhu were being escorted to India via Toronto on Thursday when the British Columbia Court of Appeal decided to halt their extradition.
“I’m told he’s on his way back to Vancouver,” Klein said Friday of his client Badesha, who, along with his sister, is accused of conspiracy in the murder of Sidhu’s daughter in June 2000.
An expedited hearing Thursday was sought after Klein and lawyer David Crossin, who represents Sidhu, learned “through happenstance” that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had surrendered the pair to Indian authorities, Klein said.
“I presume Mr. Crossin was making submissions in the court of appeal on behalf of both of them while they were in the air,” he said.
In 2014, an extradition judge committed the pair to face the charges in India.
In a 9-0 judgment earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada set aside a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that stopped extradition proceedings over concerns that the mother and uncle would be poorly treated or even tortured in India.
The B.C. Appeal Court again halted the extradition on Thursday.
Speaking for the majority, Justice Ian Donald said in the 2-1 decision that the circumstances as outlined by Crossin “persuaded me that there is an arguable case, that the minister’s position … constitutes a reviewable decision and, as such, is amenable to judicial review in their court under the Extradition Act.”
Justice Harvey M. Groberman dissented, saying the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the application for a judicial review.
A written ruling said a hearing on the application has been adjourned to a later date “so that a proper record can be constructed and counsel can put together their arguments to assist the court.”
Klein said he wasn’t informed about the surrender order “but it appears that the justice minister may have decided that these people should be surrendered without providing any notice or reasons to anyone.”
The new information was provided to the Justice Department in July or August and isn’t based on any rumours apparently circulating on Facebook, Klein said, though he declined to provide details.
The case involves the murder of Maple Ridge, B.C., resident Jaswinder (Jassi) Sidhu and the attempted murder of her husband Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, who were travelling by scooter in the province of Punjab when they were attacked by armed men.
Sukhwinder Sidhu was seriously injured and his wife’s body was found on the bank of a canal after what Indian authorities allege was a hit ordered by the woman’s mother and uncle.
Police in India have said Sidhu secretly married a rickshaw driver in 1999 while on a trip to India from her home in Maple Ridge, B.C., inciting the anger of Badesha and her mother, who believed the marriage brought dishonour to the family.
Indian police have said death threats were issued to the couple and phone calls were made from Badesha’s home in B.C. to some of the perpetrators around the time of the attack.
Klein said that despite the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that set aside the earlier ruling that stopped Badesha and Sidhu’s extradition, the minister’s decision to surrender the pair must still be justified.
“We’re not denying what the Supreme Court of Canada did,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘Hold it a second. Please reconsider that order with the new information.
“We appreciate that may be cumbersome and I’m sure there’s a hue and cry about the delay in the proceedings but first and foremost the stakes are very high for these two individuals.”