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India bound by assurance to Portugal on Abu Salem: Union Home Secretary to Supreme Court

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Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has told the Apex Court that the Union government is bound by its assurance given to the Portugal government during the extradition of gangster Abu Salem , a convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

In an affidavit dated 18.04.2022 , Bhalla said that the judiciary, however, in our country is independent, decides cases on the basis of relevant laws and cannot be bound by any position taken by the executive .

“The judiciary , as the Constitution of India envisages , is independent in deciding all cases including criminal cases in accordance with the applicable laws without in any way being bound by any position taken by the executive.”

The question of honouring the assurance, which guaranteed that Abu Salem would not be visited by death penalty or imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years, would arise only when the said 25 years expires.

Bhalla filed a written response to the Division Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh query on Salem’s plea questioning life imprisonment imposed on him by the TADA court on September 7, 2017 in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

“It is respectfully submitted that the Government of India is bound by the assurance dated 17.12.2002 . The period of 25 years which is mentioned in the assurance will be abided by the Union of India at an appropriate time subject to the remedies which may be available.

The question of the Union of India honoring its assurance dated 17.12.2002 will arise only when the period of 25 years is to expire . This date is 10.11.2030 . Before the said date , the convict appellant cannot raise any arguments based on the said assurance “, said the affidavit.

While referring to the 1962 Extradition Act, the Union Home Secretary said it is a law enabling the executive of one country to deal with another country to extradite accused and convicted persons.

According to the affidavit , the convict cannot raise any arguments based on the assurance, therefore the contention of the petitioner about non-compliance of assurance is premature and based on hypothetical surmises and can never be raised in present proceedings.

Bhalla added that having carefully examined the matter and the ramifications which the stand of Union of India will have, it is the respectful submission of the Central government that the Apex court may decide the appeal on merits.

On April 12 , the Supreme Court objected to the failure of the Home Secretary to file his response on whether the Centre intends to honour the assurance given to Portugal while deporting gangster Abu Salem and granted the official a last opportunity to file it by April 18.

On March 8, the Top Court asked the Union Home Secretary to file an affidavit on whether the Union is committed to adhere to the assurance given by the then Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to Portuguese authorities of not incarcerating gangster Abu Salem for more than 25 years while seeking his extradition.

The CBI also filed an affidavit in this matter stating that the Indian court is not bound by the assurance given in 2002 by the then deputy Prime minister that Salem would neither be given a death sentence nor imprisoned beyond 25 years.

The CBI believes that there is no merit in the contention of the appellant and the life sentence awarded by the trial court is legally correct and needs no interference.

Abu Salem was arrested in the Republic of Portugal for commission of the offense by him in the Republic of Portugal. Salem was convicted by the Court in Republic of Portugal and he was to undergo Imprisonment for four years and six months and the said period was expected to expire on 18.03.2007 , Vide order dated 12.10.2005 Judge of Lisbon , granted conditional release to the accused Abu Salem for the remaining period of the sentence .The extradition proceeding continued from 2002 to 2005. The custody of the Accused Abu Salem was handed over to the Indian Authorities on 10.11.2005.

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