Sentence triggers legal debate as he can’t be awarded more than 25 years.
The life term awarded to Abu Salem has triggered a complex legal debate which could have a bearing on future extradition treaties between India and other countries.
Courts have to consider the assurance given by the Indian government of not sentencing him for a term beyond 25 years, while extraditing Salem, his lawyer had argued while seeking minimum sentence in connection with the 1993 serial bomb blasts.
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Before the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court, Salem’s lawyer Sudeep Pasbola had contended that his role should be considered at par with convict Mansoor Ahmed Sayyed Ahmed, who had accompanied Salem to Sanjay Dutt’s house to deliver AK-56 rifles. But the prosecution represented by advocate Deepak Salvi had sought life imprisonment for Salem stating that he deserved nothing but death penalty but considering the treaty he cannot be sentenced to death or be imprisoned for more than 25 years.
Citing the treaty, Mr. Pasbola contended that Salem cannot be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and said that the court should abide by the assurance given by the Indian government to the government of Portugal while extraditing him.
But the trial court did not take the extradition treaty into consideration while awarding him life imprisonment.
Criminal lawyer Majeed Memon, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP said, “The fugitive was handed over to us only on the conditions that we would do certain things and not do certain things which are given in writing and if we defy that it would be an international humiliation.”
Also read: Slapping death penalty charges on Salem violates accord, says Portugal
Advocate Niteen Pradhan also questioned the sentence on Salem. He said: “The order granted is beyond the jurisdiction of the court as the order has limits [set on it] by the Portugal Supreme Court and the conditions imposed at the time of his extradition.
“The treaty says he cannot be imprisoned for more than 25 years and the Supreme Court of India has said that life sentence means for life as per the Indian law. When you say life sentence, it cannot be implied that it is 25 years.”
The other thing that can happen is that Salem can approach the Portugal Supreme Court and ask for re-extradition.
Senior advocate Raja Thakare said: “If we don’t abide by it [treaty], the ramifications will be all over and internationally we will be humiliated.”