Supreme Court weighs fate of Maple Ridge mom, uncle accused in honour killing
Published Monday, March 20, 2017 8:21AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, March 20, 2017 5:50PM PDT
The fate of a Maple Ridge mother and uncle accused in an honour killing in India now rests with the Supreme Court of Canada.
Justices heard arguments Monday from both sides in the case which could result in the extradition of Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha to India to stand trial for murder.
Jassi Sidhu, 25, secretly married Mithu Sidhu in the Indian state of Punjab, telling friends she did so against the wishes of her Maple Ridge family who had promised her to a wealthy older man.
"Jassi married a boy that her family did not approve of because he was a rickshaw driver," said Janet Henchey, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada. "Her family harassed and assaulted her in order to get her to renounce her marriage. She refused to do so."
Jassi, who grew up in Maple Ridge, dreamed of bringing her new husband back to Canada, but in June 2000 a group of men attacked the couple, killing Jassi and leaving her husband with serious injuries.
Authorities in India claim Jassi's mother, Malkit Sidhu, and Jassi's uncle Surjit Singh Badesha ordered the murder from Canada, paying the equivalent of $10,000 to have it carried out.
The mother and uncle, currently free on bail and living on a large rural property in Maple Ridge, have fought extradition, citing poor health and substandard prison conditions in India.
"And then what we have is difficulty with the local jailer, who seems to enjoy impunity, no oversight, and bad things can happen," Badesha's lawyer Michael Klein argued before the Supreme Court.
Eleven people have already stood trial in India for the murder. Initially, seven were convicted and four were acquitted, then four more were acquitted on appeal. Three people are currently serving life sentences for their roles in the attack.
Jassi's mother and uncle were ordered extradited in 2014 to face murder and conspiracy charges but B.C.'s high court set aside the order in part because of concerns the pair might be tortured or neglected while in an Indian jail cell.
The decision to set aside the order was criticized by Jassi's former principal, who knew her when she attended Pitt Meadows Secondary School in the early '90s.
Jim Longridge remembers her fondly, and has waged a letter writing campaign to provincial and federal politicians for years seeking justice for Jassi.
"There's no closure. So, yeah, I'd love to stop writing letters,” said Longridge. “I'd love to be at YVR to wave at the aircraft that's taking them back to India."
No date has been set for the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the extradition.
With files from The Canadian Press