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Centre weighs three options on Salem

New Delhi, Oct. 27: The Centre is exploring different approaches to secure the extradition of Abu Salem, one of the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed several people.

First, the government has the option of notifying the Surrender of Fugitive Treaty between British India and the then Portuguese colonies in India (Goa, Daman and Diu). If the two governments agree on it, Salem can be extradited under this treaty.

The second option for India is to give a solemn assurance to Portugal that if it starts extradition proceedings against Salem, it would also reciprocate with whatever help is required in this or any other criminal matter by Portugal. This is an internationally accepted diplomatic policy.

The third option is to enter into a fresh extradition treaty with Portugal.

Arrested on September 18 in Lisbon, Salem and his Bollywood actress wife, Monica Bedi, have been remanded in judicial custody for 90 days after they were caught with fake travel documents.

Government sources said diplomatic efforts are going on between the two countries to negotiate a legal framework that would enable Salemís extradition. On the domestic front, the ministry of home affairs has made the Central Bureau of Investigation the nodal agency to scrutinise all pending criminal cases against Salem registered in different states, bureau sources said.

The move has been initiated because only credible criminal cases would form part of Salemís extradition documents. The cases against him would have to withstand the scrutiny of courts in Portugal, they pointed out.

This assumes even more significance as, legally, a fugitive can be tried in India only for those cases in which his extradition has been sought.

Of the three possibilities, the Centre is giving importance to the pre-Independence 1892 treaty, struck between the Portuguese and the Queen of England and the Empress of India.

The treaty on the surrender of fugitives was signed in 1892 and ratified by the two regimes in 1893. Now both the governments of India and Portugal would have to notify it so that it comes into force once again. A senior government official said the Centre had agreed in principle to notify the treaty on fugitives under Section 3 of the Extradition Act.

These issues were taken up at a high-level meeting chaired by the Union home secretary recently. Senior officials of the ministry of external affairs, the ministry of home affairs and the Union law ministry are in constant touch with each other over Salemís extradition.

The government is going through all aspects of Salemís extradition minutely, given that they donít want to miss the big fish this time. CBI officials said that Portuguese authorities in informal conversation have wanted to hand over the criminal provided the legal formalities are complete.

Government officials, who are in touch with their Portuguese counterpart, say there is a possibility of Salem and Bedi staying behind bars for another 90 days, as Lisbon police would not be in a position to complete its investigation by December 17. Salemís 90 days of judicial custody comes to an end on that day.

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