New Delhi: In a setback for extradited gangster Abu Salem, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the trial court to proceed against him expeditiously. Salem, who is currently lodged in Arthur jail in Mumbai, has been convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
The apex court said the underworld don can be tried for offences inviting death penalty even though the Portugal government had laid a pre-condition that he will not be extradited if he was to be awarded capital punishment.
A bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Asok Kumar Ganguly held that Salem can be tried for murder (section 302) and criminal conspiracy (120-B) of the IPC, besides other offences under the TADA in connection with the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
The apex court rejected the argument of Salem that he cannot be tried for the offences which entailed death penalty as the same was the pre-condition agreed by the Indian government at the time of his extradition from Portugal. The prosecution had, however, argued that the Portugal government cannot impose any pre-condition on Indian courts.
It was also submitted that Salem's apprehension of being awarded death penalty was "preposterous" as the trial was yet to conclude and the punishment was yet to be decided.
The apex court, in its judgment, while concurring with the prosecution's argument, pointed out that notwithstanding the pre-condition imposed by Portugal authorities, the two countries are signatories to the international convention on elimination of terrorism. Hence, it felt that there was nothing wrong if the various provisions under TADA and the IPC were invoked against him.
Salem was extradited from Portugal on the basis of an undertaking given by previous NDA government after then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah promised that he would not be awarded death penalty.
Salem, 42, a key accused in the 1993 serial bomb blasts, has been lodged in a Mumbai jail since his extradition from Portugal in 2005. He is facing trial in nine cases, including two murders.
With PTI inputs