India Supreme Court dismisses petition to release man detained over alleged murder plot News
© JURIST (Neelabh Bist)
India Supreme Court dismisses petition to release man detained over alleged murder plot

The Indian Supreme Court dismissed Thursday a habeas corpus petition by one of the family members of Nikhil Gupta for his release from detention in the Czech Republic. Gupta has been accused of plotting the murder of pro-Khalistan activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Habeas corpus petitions are a legal mechanism that protects an individual’s right to be free from unlawful detention or imprisonment.

In a short dismissal order, the court considered international law and sovereignty principles to reject all prayers in the writ petition. Gupta remains detained after a visit from an Indian Embassy officer and a related High Court order. He suggested treating the writ petition as a representation to the government of India, which the court acknowledged without providing specific directions.

The Minister of External Affairs Randhir Jaiswal, in a weekly media briefing, commented on the issue by saying, “We haven’t seen the order of the ruling of Supreme Court. Therefore, it will be not fair for me to comment on it. We are yet to see the formal order of the Supreme Court.”

In late November 2023, US prosecutors charged Gupta, who is an Indian government employee, with conspiring to murder Pannun. The alleged conspiracy, funded by an Indian government agency, involved Gupta paying $100,000 to an undercover US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent for Pannun’s murder. While Pannun was not explicitly named in Gupta’s indictment, his address was given as the target.

Pannun is known for advocating Punjab’s secession from India to establish Khalistan, leading to the Indian government banning him and his separatist organization. Gupta allegedly mentioned multiple targets, including the recently killed Canadian activist Nijjar, who was considered a terrorist by the Indian government. Czech authorities had apprehended Nikhil Gupta in the Czech Republic based on a request from the US in June.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leveled similar allegations against the Indian government in September. Trudeau accused India of involvement in a Sikh separatist leader’s assassination on Canadian soil. Tensions escalated with diplomatic expulsions, visa suspensions, and mutual allegations.