Salem is currently serving life terms in two separate cases, including the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. After his extradition, in February 2015, a special TADA court awarded Salem life imprisonment for murdering Mumbai-based builder Pradeep Jain in 1995, along with his driver Mehndi Hassan.
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved orders on the petition filed by gangster Abu Salem seeking enforcement of the solemn assurance given by India in 2002 while extraditing him from Portugal that he will not be sentenced to a jail term beyond 25 years. Salem has been handed down two life terms by the trial courts for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts and the murder of businessman Pradeep Jain in 1995.
“Based on the arguments made, two scenarios emerge before us — whether looking into the assurance given before a foreign court, the executive should be told to take a time-bound decision on his remission just before completion of 25 years or going by the principle of comity of courts, this court should say that in the light of the assurance we read down the sentence of life imprisonment to a period of 25 years,” a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh said, before reserving the judgment.
The Union home secretary had last month filed an affidavit before the top court stating that India was bound by the assurance it had given to the Portugal court in December 2002 but suggested that the plea of Salem was premature as the question of his release will arise in November 2030, when he will complete 25 years of sentence. The affidavit counted this period to begin from November 11, 2005, when he was extradited from Portugal to face trial in multiple cases lodged against him.
On Thursday, additional solicitor general (ASG) KM Nataraj reiterated this position. “The decision is best left to the executive to consider under Article 72 (pardoning power of President) or Article 161 (pardoning power of Governor) at the relevant time,” he said. “Sovereign assurance given by one country to another country cannot be read into judicial exercise of power.”
The court asked the law officer to submit a two-page note of his submissions and asked him to consider if the petitioner’s claim for set-off against the total period of incarceration undergone should begin from the date of his extradition (November 2005) or the date when he was detained in Portugal (September 18, 2002) based on a red corner notice issued by Interpol at the instance of the Indian prosecuting agency.
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