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Home / India / Centre: Supreme Court not bound by promise on Abu Salem

Centre: Supreme Court not bound by promise on Abu Salem

The govt assured the SC that the Bombay blasts convict would not face the death sentence or imprisonment beyond 25 years for his terrorist activities
Supreme Court.
Supreme Court.
File photo

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 20.04.22, 12:31 AM

The Centre on Tuesday assured the Supreme Court that Bombay blasts convict Abu Salem would not face the death sentence or imprisonment beyond 25 years for his terrorist activities, as India was bound by its solemn diplomatic assurance given to Portugal for his extradition.

However, the ministry of home affairs added that the assurance would not in any manner fetter the powers of the Supreme Court.

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In other words, the government was of the view that Salem can still be awarded the death penalty or life imprisonment by the apex court as the court was not bound by the assurance given at the executive level.

“The Extradition Act, 1962 is an Act enabling the executive of one State (State being used in parlance of international law) can deal with another State to extradite accused / convict persons. These powers are executive powers and while exercising such powers, it is an inherent understanding that it would bind the executives of the respective States. The judiciary, as the Constitution of India envisages, is independent in deciding all cases including criminal cases in accordance with the applicable laws without in any way being bound by any position taken by the executive,” the affidavit, filed on behalf of Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, stated.

The court had on  March 8 asked the Centre to clarify whether it intends to honour the “sovereign” assurance given by the then deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani that no punishment beyond 25 years would be awarded to gangster Abu Salem, now facing life imprisonment, as the top court felt any retraction would have international ramifications for future extradition.

Salem’s counsel Rishi Malhotra challenged the judgment passed on September 7, 2017 by a designated TADA Court that convicted him for the crime and awarding him life imprisonment, as it was contrary to the assurance given to Portugal.

According to the Centre, Salem, after an elaborate trial, is found to be guilty of serious terrorist offences which resulted in serial bomb blasts at several places of strategic importance in Mumbai.

After he fled to Portugal, the Indian government gave an assurance to that government with a letter on December 17, 2002 that stated: “......The Government of India, therefore, on the basis of the provisions of the Constitution of India, the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 and the Code of Criminal Procedure of India, 1973 solemnly assures the Govemment of Portugal that it will exercise its powers conferred by the Indian laws to ensure that if extradited by Portugal for trial in India, Abu Salem Abdul .Qayoom Ansari and Monica Bedi would not be visited by death penalty or imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years.”

Referring to the said assurance, the MHA affidavit stated “… the Government of India is bound by the assurance dated 17.12.2002.  The period of 25 years which is mentioned in the assurance will be abided by the Union of India at an appropriate time subject to the remedies which may be available. The question of the Union of India honouring its assurance dated 17.12.2002 will arise only when the period of 25 years is to expire. This date is 10.11.2030. Before the said date, the convict­ appellant cannot raise any arguments based on the said assurance.

“Therefore, the contention of petitioner about non-compliance of assurance is premature and based on hypothetical surmises and can never be raised in present proceedings,” the affidavit stated.



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