India and Saudi Arabia are in talks to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain formal assistance from each other in investigations related to criminal cases.

 

What Are Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)?

  • In criminal cases, MLATs are bilateral treaties between the countries to provide international cooperation and assistance.
  • These agreements allow the signing countries to share the information and evidence in criminal and related matters.
  • India has so far signed MLATs with 45 countries, and is also in talks to finalise MLATs with Italy and Germany.

 

How is it different from ‘extradition’?

  • Mutual legal assistance is a form of cooperation between different countries for the purpose of collecting and exchanging information. Authorities from one country may also ask for and provide evidence located in one country to assist in criminal investigations or proceedings in another.
  • Extradition is a legal process for the purpose to transfer from one state to another for the purposes of facing trial or sentence.

 

Benefits

  • Investigation and Prosecution of Crime — Through cooperation and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, it will improve the effectiveness of both countries in the investigation and prosecution of crime.
  • It will establish a broad legal framework for the bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the investigation and prosecution of crime, as well as the tracing, restrain, and confiscation of the proceeds and instruments of crime, as well as funds intended to finance terrorist acts.
  • Gaining Better Inputs — It will be essential in gaining better inputs and insights on organised criminals’ and terrorists’ modus operandi. These can in turn be utilised to fine-tune policy decisions related to internal security.

 

Nodal Agency in India

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs is the central authority and the nodal ministry for seeking and providing mutual legal assistance in criminal law matters.
  • When such requests are routed through the diplomatic channels by these Ministries, the Ministry of External Affairs may be involved in the process.

 

Legal provisions

Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) mentions the Central Government’s obligation to make reciprocal arrangements with foreign governments for the service of summons or warrants, or judicial processes.