Mumbai, June 17: Abu Salem, along with Mustafa Dossa, Firoz Khan, Tahir Merchant, Karimullah Shaikh, Riyaz Siddique, were held guilty by a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case. Another accuse Abdul Qayyum Shaikh was acquitted. The court will now decide the quantum of punishment of all convicts in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case. The question arises ‘will gangster Abu Salem be awarded capital punishment and hanged like Yakub Memon?’. The answer to this question is tricky and there are chances that he might not get capital punishment.
Dossa, Khan, and Merchant are likely getting the death penalty, but that’s supposedly not happening with Abu Salem. The reason being an extradition treaty between India and Portugal. He escaped the capital punishment in 2015 also of Judge GA Sanap in the same special court. His extradition in 2005 was allowed by Portugal authorities only on one condition that Abu Salem should not get capital punishment or his imprisonment should not be for more than 25 years.
While convicting Salem for builder Pradeep Jain’s murder, judge Sanap said, “It is a very ticklish issue and as such warrants a very difficult and balancing exercise. The pride and prestige of our country are involved. Therefore, if any decision is taken contrary to the spirit of the Indian laws, and also contrary to the spirit of the solemn sovereign assurance given by the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and understood by the Supreme Court of Justice, Portugal in its judgment dated 27/01/2005, then very serious repercussions could follow”, as reported by Hindustan Times.
The reason the treaty is signed between India and Portugal is that Salem and his wife entered Portugal illegally and resided there. They were facing imprisonment for the same. Pradeep Jain’s murder is one of the eight cases for which Salem was extradited by Portugal. Ujjwal Nikam, the then special public prosecutor, had even sought capital punishment to Salem. However, keeping in mind the provisions of section 34C of the Extradition Act in India, Nikam demanded a life sentence for Salem.
Under section 34C, in the case of extradition from a country which does not have a death penalty, if the offence is punishable with it, then in place of it, the accused is liable to imprisonment for life.
Abu Salem is however convicted for murder and sections under TADA to life imprisonment. Although he cannot be imprisoned for more than 25 years, the court had observed that ‘the Union of India in its domain particularly the executives in their wisdom and domain would be free to exercise its power and the matter of execution of the sentence by the court.’
Salem’s advocate back then even contended that according to the sovereign assurance given by the Centre, he could not have been convicted of the charge of section 120(B) (conspiracy). He also is not liable for punishment of imprisonment for more than 25 years.
Considering the observation made by the Supreme Court of Justice, Portugal in its order on January 27, 2005, the court kept its order in mind. The order reads, “given that the government of Indian union cannot guarantee that such a sentence will not be applied by its (independent) courts, one can only request it to provide a guarantee that, should such a sentence be imposed, then in order to restrict it, it will resort to all legal measures available for pardon, reprieve, respite or remission of punishment or similar measure of punishment.”