Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)
25th May, 2019
- India has held the 11th Consular Committee Meeting with Iran to discuss on smoothening visa and legal matters essential for bilateral ties.
- Both discussed issues of mutual interest, including early conclusion of Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance on civil and commercial matters, extending longer duration of e-Visa for each other nationals on reciprocity, visa facilitation for greater people-to-people contact.
Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs):
- It is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
- When evidence or other forms of legal assistance such as witness statements or the service of documents are needed from a foreign country, the two countries may attempt to cooperate informally through their respective police agencies or alternatively they may resort to requests for Mutual Legal Assistance.
- MLATs can be bilateral (country to country), multilateral, regional (any regional grouping example ASEAN) and country to regional (India with all the countries of European Union).
- Assistance may be denied by either country (according to agreement details) for political or security reasons, or if the criminal offence in question is not equally punishable in both countries.
- This assistance may take the form of:
- examining and identifying people,
- places and things,
- custodial transfers and
- providing assistance with the immobilisation of the instruments of criminal activity.
Central Authority in India for Mutual Legal Assistance Requests:
- As per the Allocation of Business Rules of the Government of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal Ministry and the Central authority for seeking and providing mutual legal assistance in criminal law matters.
- MHA receives all such requests, examines them and takes appropriate action. Internal Security-II Division handles this subject in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Similarly, cases pertaining to civil and commercial matters are required to be taken up with the Ministry of Law & Justice, which finalizes and notifies treaties and arrangements with other countries as per the relevant statutory provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure.
- The Ministry of External Affairs may be involved in this process when such requests are routed through diplomatic channels by these Ministries.
Procedure for serving Summons issued by an Indian Court on a person living abroad:
- Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) speaks of reciprocal arrangements to be made by Central Government with the Foreign Governments with regard to the service of summons/warrants/judicial processes.
- Accordingly, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has entered into Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties/Agreements on Criminal Matters with 39 countries which provide for serving of documents.