Centre bound to release Abu Salem upon sentence completion: SC
The Supreme Court on Monday said the Centre is bound to uphold its commitment given to Portugal to release the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case accused Abu Salem upon the completion of his 25-year sentence. According to the assurance given to Portugal by the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani for his extradition in 2002, Salem said his sentence could not exceed 25 years.
- On March 12, 1993, 12 explosions took place one after another within about two hours in Mumbai, killing 257, grievously injuring 713, and destroying properties worth crores.
- Salem was extradited from Portugal on November 11, 2005, after a protracted legal battle.
- In June 2017, Salem was convicted and later awarded a life sentence for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
The Centre had told the SC the question of honoring the December 17, 2002 assurance to Portugal would arise around November 10, 2030—when Salem completes a 25-year prison term. On February 25, 2015, a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court awarded life imprisonment to Salem in another case for murdering Mumbai-based builder Pradeep Jain along with his driver Mehndi Hassan in 1995.
The Centre earlier argued that "the judiciary is independent of the solemn sovereign assurance" given to Portugal during Salem's extradition to India and it is up to the "executive" to take a decision on the same at an appropriate time. Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj had told the court that the government will abide by the assurance at an appropriate stage.
However, advocate Rishi Malhotra, representing Salem, argued that the assurance was in clear terms that if Salem is extradited by Portugal for trial in India, he would not be awarded the death penalty or imprisonment for a period beyond 25 years. Nataraj had also argued there are judgments to the effect that a life sentence means entire life and there could be no remission.