What are Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)?

Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) or agreements are legal instruments that provide a mechanism for seeking assistance from other contracting states for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crime. MLATs are commonly used in criminal matters, but can also be used in civil and commercial cases. These treaties or agreements allow for the collection of evidence, examination of witnesses residing abroad, and the execution of orders of attachment, freezing, or confiscation under the provisions of the treaty or agreement.

How are MLATs used in India?

In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is responsible for receiving and examining requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, and taking appropriate action. The Ministry of Law & Justice is responsible for handling requests for assistance in civil and commercial matters. The Ministry of External Affairs may also be involved in the process when requests are routed through diplomatic channels.

Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) allows the Central Government of India to make reciprocal arrangements with foreign governments regarding the service of summons, warrants, and judicial processes. As of 2021, the Central Government of India had entered into MLATs with 40 countries.

What is the process for seeking assistance through an MLAT?

The process for seeking assistance through an MLAT typically involves the following steps:

  • Determining if an MLAT exists between the requesting state and the state from which assistance is sought. This can be done by checking the list of MLATs that India has entered into with other countries.
  • Preparing a formal request for assistance.
  • This request must be in writing and must include specific information about the case, such as the nature of the crime, the evidence or information being sought, and the purpose of the request.
  • Submitting the request to the appropriate authority.
  • In India, requests for assistance in criminal matters should be submitted to the MHA, while requests for assistance in civil and commercial matters should be submitted to the Ministry of Law & Justice.
  • Awaiting a response from the requested state.
  • The requested state has the right to accept or reject the request, or to ask for additional information or clarification.
  • If the request is accepted, coordinating with the requested state to carry out the assistance requested. This may involve collecting and exchanging evidence, arranging for the examination of witnesses, or executing orders of attachment, freezing, or confiscation.

MLATs are an important tool for law enforcement agencies around the world, allowing them to seek assistance from other countries in the investigation and prosecution of crime. In India, the MHA and Ministry of Law & Justice are responsible for handling requests for mutual legal assistance, and the process for seeking such assistance involves preparing a formal request and submitting it to the appropriate authority.

Written by princy

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