‘Don’t lecture judiciary’: SC rejects Centre’s stance on Abu Salem’s plea on 1993 Mumbai blasts case
The home ministry had said that the gangster’s petition for protection from a death sentence or life imprisonment was premature.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Union government’s stance that a plea filed by 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts convict Abu Salem about his extradition from Portugal was premature, reported NDTV.
In his petition, Salem said that India had assured the Portuguese government that if he was extradited, he would not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, reported Bar and Bench.
Salem was extradited from Portugal in November 2005. He is lodged in a Mumbai prison.
In September 2017, a special court in Mumbai had sentenced him to life imprisonment under the now-repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for his role in the 1993 blasts that had killed more than 250 people. The gangster is also serving a separate life sentence for his role in the murder of a Mumbai builder in 1995.
In response to the Salem’s petition, the home ministry had said in an affidavit filed on April 18 that the petition was premature and that he was allowed to file the plea only after 25 years of his extradition, reported Live Law.
The ministry had said that the assurances to the Portugal government, though binding, would only come into effect in 2030.
At Thursday’s hearing, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh said that the gangster’s plea was “neither premature nor based on hypothetical surmises”.
“Don’t lecture the judiciary,” the court told the Union home ministry. “We do not take it kindly when you tell us to decide something which you have to decide.”
The court also took exception to a portion of the government’s affidavit where it said that the court should decide the matter on the merits of the plea, Bar and Bench reported.
“As to what this Court has to do or not, is for the court to decide,” the bench said. “We don’t appreciate the tenor of the affidavit. If a convict seeks to accept his guilt and conviction it cannot be said that the court must hear the appeal on merits.”
The court also rejected the government’s argument that a commitment between two countries cannot be decided based on the appeal of one accused person.
“...Nor is it for the government to say that the appellant cannot raise the argument,” it said. “As a convict, he is certainly entitled to raise this issue for the judiciary to consider its effect.”
Advocate Rishi Malhotra, appearing for Salem, told the court that the gangster had been detained on September 18, 2002, by the Portuguese authorities on the basis of a look-out notice. He argued that the 25-year time period should begin from the date of his detention, and not when he was extradited.
The court will now on the matter of the “set off”, that is since when the 25-year time period should begin, and also the jurisdiction of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act to award a sentence of more than 25 years, according to Bar and Bench.
The matter has been listed for hearing on May 5.