Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)

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A mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an understanding and agreement between two countries that wish to mutually cooperate regarding investigation, prosecution and enforcement of the provisions of the laws of these agreeing countries. The MLAT also mentions the grounds on the basis of which a request by either nation may be rejected or denied by other nation.

Perry4Law Organisation, Perry4Law Law Firm and Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB) are providing this work in this regard for the larger benefit of all stakeholders. A special focus of this work is to provide information about the International Treaties/Conventions that India has entered into Multilaterally/Bilaterally to foster International Legal and Judicial Cooperation. You may also find the resource titled Conflict of Laws in Cyberspace useful in this regard.

According to Wikipedia, MLAT is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public laws or criminal laws. The areas of cooperation primarily include International Taxation especially international double taxation agreements and International Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions.

Mutual Assistance and Cooperation among Countries include the following:

(a)  Law Enforcement Cooperation among the Police Forces of different Countries, including through the INTERPOL. India is also a Member of INTERPOL since October 1949.

(b) Mutual Legal Assistance requests may also be issued by one Country to another.

(c) Letter Rogatory may also be issued by the Courts of one Country to another Country’s Court for judicial assistance like notice and document serving, evidence taking, etc. Please see Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and Letters Rogatory-A Guide for Judges (PDF) for more details especially regarding the position in United States (U.S.).

This assistance may take the form of examining and identifying people, places and things, custodial transfers, extradition requests, and providing assistance with the immobilisation of the instruments of criminal activity.

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. Some treaties may encourage assistance with legal aid for nationals in other countries.

In India, the Policies/Coordination in respect of International/Bilateral Security Issues like MLAT, Agreement/MoU on Security Related Matters, Security Issues Pertaining to SAARC, BIMSTEC, ASEAN Etc are managed by Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Please see the International Treaties/Convention Coordination Document (PDF) in this regard.

Some of the International Treaties/Conventions where India is a signatory are:

(1) United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime- India signed the Convention on 12-12-2002 and rectified the same on 05-05-2011. However, India made the following declarations/exceptions/reservations while rectifying the Convention:

(i) The Government of India does not consider itself bound by the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols relating to submission of disputes for arbitration or to the International Court of Justice.

(ii) In pursuance of Article 16, paragraph 5(a) of the Convention, the Government of India shall apply the Convention as the legal basis for cooperation on extradition with other States Parties to the Convention.

(iii) The Government of the Republic of India declares, with respect to Article 18 of the Convention, that international cooperation for mutual legal assistance shall be afforded through applicable bilateral Agreements, and where the mutual legal assistance sought is not covered by a bilateral agreement with the requesting State, it shall on reciprocal basis, be provided under the provisions of the Convention.

(iv) In pursuance of Article 18, paragraph 13 of the Convention, the designated Central Authority would be the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

(v) The Government of India declares that acceptable languages for the purpose of the Convention and its Protocols shall be English and/or Hindi.

(2) Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters- India signed the Convention on 26-01-2012 (AC) and deposited the Instrument of Ratification/ Acceptance/ Approval on 21-02-2012 and the Convention came into force on 01-06-2012 vis-à-vis India. Please see the Status (PDF) for more details.

(3) The Hague Evidence Convention- The Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters is another International Convention in this regard. India acceded to the Convention on 07-02-2007 and the Convention entered into force between India and different Countries subsequently.