Above: (Left) Abu Salem was given life sentence. Photo: UNI; (right) Tahir Merchant is one of the two convicts who were given death sentence, the other is Firoz Khan
A special TADA court on Thursday (September 7) gave death sentences to 1993 Mumbai blast accused Tahir Merchant and Firoz Khan, while handing out life sentences to Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan. The court had pronounced them guilty of the blasts on June 16, but had postponed spelling out the quantum of punishment. The blasts had killed 257 people.
Salem (along with his girlfriend Monica Bedi, who received a small punishment for forged travel documents) was extradited from Portugal in 2005, while another convict, Mustafa Dossa, was extradited from the UAE. Dossa died days after his conviction.
Technically, even assuming Salem’s crime was suitable for capital punishment, the extradition treaty that India signed with Portugal – this was done directly in reference to this case – in January of 2007 did not allow capital punishment. Salem may have escaped the noose through that route.
The treaty was signed after the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had detailed talks with visiting Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva. In it India accepted two main conditions that the extradited person would not face either a death sentence or life imprisonment beyond 25 years.
Technically, this was pre-determined, with even the CBI having asked for life imprisonment for Salem.
With no extradition possible with Pakistan, the most wanted of all the criminals in the case, Dawood Ibrahim, remains on the loose.
This was the second part of the probe. In the first part, completed in 2007, 100 were convicted of who 23 were acquitted. When Yakub Memon’s last plea, to the President of India (Pranab Mukherjee) failed in 2015, he was hanged.
—India Legal Bureau