MUMBAI: A special TADA court on Wednesday sentenced gangster Abu Salem and an accomplice to life imprisonment in the Pradeep Jain murder case, sparking a debate on whether it violated the extradition agreement the Centre had signed with Portugal in 2005.
Portugal had extradited Salem on the condition that he would be neither hanged nor imprisoned for more than 25 years for any crime.
This is the first ever punishment for the gangster since the late 1980s. The accomplice who got a life term for the murder of the city-based builder is his former driver Mehdi Hasan.
Another accused, V K Jhamb, was convicted for hatching the murder conspiracy. However, the sentence of the wheelchair-bound 86-year-old was set off against the period he had served in prison during the various stages of investigation in the case.
The special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court fined Salem `20 lakh, out of which 50 percent will go to Jain’s widow.
According to the prosecution, a conspiracy was hatched in October, 1994 by Salem, Hassan, Kayyum Ansari, Naeem Khan and wanted accused Anees Kaskar in Dubai to force Jain and his brother to surrender their rights on a properties located in Dongri and Andheri areas of the city.
Jain was shot dead on March 7, 1995, outside his house at Juhu after he refused to give the huge property to Salem. Jain’s brother had escaped with a bullet injury.
Salem’s lawyer Saba Qureshi said the treaty with Portugal stood terminated after the court’s verdict.
“Even the Supreme Court had asked police to drop the charges which are not included in the extradition order, according to which the charges of conspiracy had to be dropped. We will challenge this order,” she said.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam contested Qureshi’s views, saying the assurance given by the Centre, an executive wing, was not binding on the judiciary as it was a different wing of the Constitution. He added that if the court had considered the terms of the treaty while sentencing Salem, it would have amounted to interference by the executive.
In this trial which began in 2008, the prosecution examined around 25 witnesses and the defence questioned only one. Initially, Nikam had sought the death penalty for both Salem and Hassan. He later conceded that the death penalty couldn’t be sought for the gangster in the light of extradition treaty.