In a huge setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Monday said that the Indian government must honour its word to Portugal at the time of the extradition of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Abu Salem, thus, ordering the Centre to release the gangster upon the completion of his 25-year jail term.
Salem’s counsel had argued before the court that as an assurance given by the Indian government to Portugal after his arrest back in 2002, the term for Salem’s jail sentence cannot extend beyond 25 years. After a long legal battle, Salem was eventually extradited to India in November, 2005. The other condition laid before India by Portugal was that Salem was not to be awarded death penalty.
Hearing the case, Justices SK Kaul and MM Sundresh, while citing the commitment given to Portugal, directed the central government to ask the President to exercise the powers given under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution, where the President can “grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.”
“The necessary papers be forwarded within a month of completion of 25 years. In fact, the government can itself exercise the power of remission under CrPC within the time period of one month upon completion of 25 years,” the bench said.
On February 25, 2015, a special TADA court had awarded life imprisonment to Salem in another case for murdering Mumbai-based builder Pradeep Jain in 1995 along with his driver Mehndi Hassan.
(With inputs from PTI)