Court reserves order on dropping charges against Salem

The Delhi High Court Thursday reserved its order on a Delhi Police plea seeking withdrawal of charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against don Abu Salem in a 2002 extortion case here.

Salem, extradited from Portugal in 2005, was booked under the act for allegedly making extortion calls to Delhi-based businessman Ashok Gupta, demanding Rs.5 crore as protection money.

Justice V.K. Shali was told by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, appearing for Delhi Police, that if charges under the MCOCA against Salem were not dropped, the reputation of India at international fora will be harmed.

At the time of Salem’s extradition from Portugal six years ago, India had given an assurance to that country that he would not be given a death penalty or charged under any section of law which entails jail for more than 25 years.

Ravel said: “We will spoil our credibility at international fora and this case will be cited as an example to show that this country does not follow it own commitments.”

The Supreme Court of Portugal recently rejected India’s appeal and cancelled the extradition of Salem, saying the CBI had violated the extradition treaty between the two countries.

The court in Portugal accused the Indian agencies of violating the conditions under which he was permitted to be taken to India in November 2005 to face trial in eight cases, including the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

A trial court in 2009 dismissed the police plea seeking to withdraw charges under the MCOCA against Salem.

Delhi Police earlier told the high court that India will approach the Portuguese constitutional court to challenge the Portugal Supreme Court’s cancellation of Salem’s extradition.



Apex court refuses to give relief to don Abu Salem

The Supreme Court Friday rejected the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts accused and don Abu Salem’s plea that he could only be tried for the offences for which he was extradited from Portugal in 2005 and allowed his trial for other lesser offences.

“Abu Salem can be tried for the offences for which he has been extradited” and in addition he can also be tried for “lesser offences”, said an apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice A.K. Ganguly in their concurrent but separate judgments.

He was extradited under International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

The court said that “lesser offence” means an offence which is made out from the proved facts and provides lesser punishment, as compared to the offences for which the fugitive has been extradited.

Justice Ganguly in his concurring judgment said that as long as the facts submitted before Portuguese authorities “prima facie show the guilt of the extraditee (Abu Salem) in a foreseeable and logically consistent way, the said person can be tried on all such counts that can be conclusively proved against him or her”.

The court said that there was no violation of the assurance given by the Indian ambassador in his letter of May 25, 2003 to Portugal government regarding the trial of Abu Salem.

The court noted that the assurance said that Abu Salem would “not be prosecuted” for the offences other than for which his extradition has been sought and he would not be re-extradited to any other third country.

The judgment also cited a letter written by the then deputy prime minister and home minister L.K. Advani assuring that “if extradited by Portugal for trial in India, Abu Salem Abdul Qayoom Ansari and Monica Bedi would not be visited by death penalty or imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years”.

Advani’s letter of Dec 17, 2002, was addressed to then Portuguese foreign minister Antonio Martins Da Cruz.

The apex court upheld the designated trial court’s decision to separate Abu Salem’s trial in the blasts case from other accused.

The judgment said that Abu Salem’s plea that because of the separation of trial he would be deprived of the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses who have already deposed had no basis.

The court noted that by its order of Aug 24, 2009, the designated trial court has already afforded him an opportunity to furnish the list of the witnesses he wanted to cross-examine.

“Hence, there is no basis in the apprehensions raised by the appellant (Abu Salem)”, the judgment said.

“We are of the view that the appellant has been charged within the permissible scope of section 21(b) of the Extradition Act and the designated court has not committed any illegality in passing the impugned orders,” the judgment said.

Dismissing all the appeals by Abu Salem, the court said that the trial in the bombings was pending since 1993 and directed the designated court to proceed with the trial expeditiously.

The court noted that all the other connected matter, related to this trial, have already been disposed.

In 1993, a series of 13 explosions took place 12 March, 1993 in Mumbai and left at least 250 dead and 700 injured.