The Supreme Court on Monday said that the Central government is bound to honour the commitment given to Portugal’s government for not imprisoning gangster Abu Salem for more than 25 years.
A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the Central government should forward the documents to the president in connection with the release of Salem from jail after he completes 25 years, in accordance with the commitment given to the Portugal government.
However, the top court did not entertain submissions of Salem’s counsel that his detention in Portugal should be counted, when the government calculates his 25 years imprisonment. The top court also made it clear that the detention period will start from October 2005 when he was extradited from Portugal. Advocate Rishi Malhotra represented Salem in the top court.
In May, the Supreme Court reserved its order on a plea by gangster Abu Salem claiming that as per the extradition treaty between India and Portugal, his jail terms cannot extend beyond 25 years. After the top court’s order, Salem would be released from jail in 2030.
During the hearing, Salem’s counsel contended that the assurance was given to the Portugal government by the Indian government, that Salem will not be either awarded death penalty or punished beyond 25 years, however, he has been sentenced with life imprisonment.
While hearing the matter, the bench noted that the courts are not bound by the assurance given by the governments, however the government may practice its executive power.
Malhotra then submitted that Salem was in custody in Portugal since 2002, and he was arrested following a red corner notice. He added that extradition started in 2003 and went for almost two years — and in 2005, he was handed over.
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, representing the Central government, had submitted that it will start by the time, when “we took him into custody and for the part of assurance, we’ll consider it but on the part of the judiciary, it can be decided independently”. Salem has been convicted in Mumbai serial bomb blasts.
On April 21, the Supreme Court had strongly objected to some statements made by the Union home secretary, in an affidavit on honouring assurance made to Portugal during Salem’s extradition, saying the judiciary does not need lecturing from the home secretary in the matter.
The Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has told the Supreme Court that the Indian government is bound by its assurance given to the Portugal government during the extradition of gangster Abu Salem, a convict in Mumbai serial blasts case, however the question of honouring its assurance will arise only when the period of 25 years is to expire.