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‘Jail term can’t exceed 25 years’, SC seeks Centre’s response on Abu Salem’s plea

After hearing arguments, the bench also comprising Justice M.M. Sundresh sought Centre and Maharashtra government's response on Salem's plea.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a plea by gangster Abu Salem that his imprisonment cannot extend beyond 25 years, according to the terms of his extradition from Portugal by the Indian government.

Advocate Rishi Malhotra, representing Salem, submitted before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court did not agree with the contention that it was bound by assurance given by the Indian government to the Portugal government during his client’s extradition. He emphasized that the apex court has the power to grant him relief in the matter.

After hearing arguments, the bench also comprising Justice M.M. Sundresh sought Centre and Maharashtra government’s response on Salem’s plea. The plea contended that the 2017 judgment of a TADA court, sentencing Salem to life imprisonment, was contrary to the terms of the extradition treaty.

According to the plea, Indian government, on December 17, 2002, gave a solemn sovereign assurance through Deputy Prime Minister to the Portugal government that if Salem is extradited for trials in India, he would neither be conferred with death penalty nor be subjected to imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years.

Pointing at another error committed by the TADA court, the plea said: “Error committed by the TADA Court was with regard to the issue of ‘Set Off’. According to the appellant though he was in custody for some offences of passport violation in Portugal since September 18, 2002 and was undergoing a sentence of 4 and half year, yet, the appellant was detained also on September 18, 2002 in pursuance to the Red Corner Notice issued by the Designated Courts, Mumbai”.

The plea added that even if the said date is not to be taken into consideration for the purposes of “set off”, the ministerial order of March 28, 2003, of the Ministry of Justice, Portugal by which it had admitted the extradition request of the Indian government to be tried for various offences ought to have been taken into consideration. “The TADA Court however, held that since the appellant was released in the Portugal case on October 12, 2005, therefore, the custody for the purposes of Set Off would be counted from October 12, 2005. The error lies in not taking custody from the Ministerial Order dated March 28, 2003”.

Malhotra submitted that his client as per the imprisonment certificate has undergone around 17 years of sentence by counting his set off period from November, 2005 whereas his set off period should be counted from March 28, 2003.

Salem was brought to India in 2005 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.


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