The Government of India has informed Portugal that Abu Salem, who was deported from that country, has been sentenced to life for his alleged role in the serial blasts in Mumbai in 1993. In its communication, the Ministry of Home Affairs has attached a copy of the judgment delivered by the Mumbai-based special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court that convicted and sentenced Salem to life imprisonment in September this year. In 2005, Salem was deported from Portugal along with Bollywood actress Monica Bedi.
Salem is among the second batch of six accused tried in the blasts case. The other five are Taher Merchant, Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, Karimullah Khan, Riyaz Siddique and Mustafa Dossa, who died less than a fortnight after his conviction four months ago. “As per the requirement of the treaty, we have informed our counterparts in Portugal. The detailed copy of the judgment that elucidates the grounds on which he was convicted and the reasons for awarding him a life term has been attached with the correspondence,” said a senior official, who did not wish to be named. “The response from the Government of Portugal will be communicated to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is the probe agency in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case,” added the official.
Earlier, in 2006, the designated TADA court, set up in the premises of the Arthur Road Jail in south-central Mumbai where a record number of 123 accused were tried in the case, convicted 100, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, and acquitted 23 accused. Of the 100 convicted by Judge Pramod Kode, 99 were handed prison terms while one accused was set free under the Probation of Offenders Act (POA). One convict, Yakub Memon, was awarded the death sentence and was executed on July 30, 2015.
Salem has claimed in a petition before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that the sentence is violative of the extradition terms and that he be returned to Portugal. Salem’s contention is that he cannot be imprisoned for more than 25 years. “If we get a query on the point of the judgment being violative of the treaty, the Law and Judiciary department would be consulted and, based on their advice, the same would be communicated to Portugal,” the official said, adding that the government has the power to remit a life term to less than 24 years.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Prisons Department is yet to decide on whether Salem should be moved out of Taloja jail where he was lodged as an undertrial. “Ordinarily after conviction, an undertrial is shifted to a central jail or moved to another central jail in cases where the accused is already lodged in a central jail. While Taloja is a central jail, we have central jails in different parts of the state, including in Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. However, no decision has been taken yet on moving Salem,” said a senior official from the prisons department.
Asked if he could be moved out of Maharashtra, sources said he could be shifted to Lucknow temporarily to face trial in a fake passport case. Salem, along with his estranged wife Samira Jumani and a broker Pervez Alam, face charges of forging documents and procuring passports from the Lucknow regional passport office on July 6, 1993. “While there are no cases pending in Maharashtra, three cases of extortion in Delhi and a case of fake passport in Lucknow are pending against Salem. For the trial, Salem could be shifted out of Mumbai and brought back once his trial is over, but a decision on that is yet to be taken,” added the official.