The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that India is bound to honour its undertaking to Portugal by not keeping gangster Abu Salem in jail for beyond 25 years, PTI reported.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Salem challenging his life imprisonment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
In September 2017, a special court under the now-repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in Mumbai sentenced him to life in prison for his role in the blasts that killed more than 250 people. He is also serving a life sentence for his alleged role in the murder of a Mumbai builder in 1995.
Salem was extradited from Portugal in November 2005 and is currently lodged in a Mumbai prison.
On Monday, the court said that the Centre is bound to advise the President of India to exercise power under Article 72 of the Constitution and India’s commitment to Portugal on completion of Salem’s sentence.
The president, under Article 72, is empowered to grant pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences.
“The necessary papers be forwarded within a month of completion of 25 years,” the court said, according to PTI. “In fact, the government can itself exercise the power of remission under CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] within the time period of one month upon completion of 25 years.”
The court, however, rejected Salem’s plea that his period of imprisonment must be considered from the date of detention in Portugal and not from the date of completion of extradition by India, News18 reported.
“We’re unable to consider the review propounded by counsel for Appellant,” the bench said. “Criminal law of land does not have extra territorial application.”
Earlier, during an earlier hearing of the case, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj had said that the government would abide by their assurance to Portugal by then deputy Prime Minister LK Advani at an appropriate time, PTI reported.
In 2018, officials from the Portuguese embassy in New Delhi visited Salem in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai to check up on him after he had alleged that his extradition order and human rights were being violated in prison.
Salem at the time had complained to the Portuguese officials about being kept in isolation, the quality and quantity of food and the condition of the toilets in prison.