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Pushback knell for Monica

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Monica Bedi seems to have lost her last chance to prevent being packed off to India to stand trial for passport fraud with a constitutional court in Portugal dismissing her plea against extradition.

The court rejected her appeal on Thursday, clearing what the CBI believes is the last major hurdle in bringing her to India.

Bedi, the girlfriend of underworld don Abu Salem, is accused of securing a passport in the name of Sana Malik Kamal from Hyderabad by misrepresenting facts and using forged documents.

The small-time actor was using this passport when she was arrested with Salem in September 2002 and sentenced to two years in a Lisbon jail for entering Portugal on forged documents. The term ended last September.

Bedi has since been under detention pending the extradition cases. Another case that seeks her repatriation for getting another passport from the Bhopal regional passport office is pending before the Lisbon high court.

Bedi had seen the writing on the wall last year when she wrote to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking a 'second chance', cancellation of all criminal proceedings against her and permission to join her parents settled in Norway.

Given the pace at which the Portugal legal system operates, a CBI official said it might be possible to get Bedi to India 'sooner than we expected'.

But Salem's case might take a few months more. The Portugal Supreme Court cleared his extradition last month, a decision he has challenged in the constitutional court.

'He is learnt to have filed an appeal against this decision on February 16,' the CBI official said. The court took less than three months to reject Bedi's appeal.

Moreover, Salem was handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term that should end in early 2007.

The CBI has been looking at the possibility of convincing Lisbon to repatriate Salem to India before he completes his jail term to stand trial in the Mumbai serial blasts case. An officer said these were minor issues as sooner or later, Salem would be behind the bars of an Indian jail.

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