In a setback, Portugal's supreme court has upheld a verdict passed by the country's lower court in September last year that had cancelled the extradition of the 1993 Mumbai blasts' accused gangster, Abu Salem, to India in October 2005.
While upholding the order of the lower court, the Portuguese SC rejected the CBI's appeal against it on technical grounds.
Portugal's Court of Appeal, Lisbon, had in September 2011 cancelled the extradition on the ground that “there has been breach of Rule of Specialty in the matter of extradition of Abu Salem,” a CBI source said.
The Lisbon court's order was based on a plea by Salem appealing against levelling of a few additional charges — not included in his extradition order issued by Portugal — against him by a Mumbai trial court hearing the Mumbai blasts case.
“The Mumbai court had allowed the charges since framing of charges for lesser offences is permissible under section 21(b) Extradition Act, 1962," said a CBI source. “The Portuguese SC had not listed the matter for hearing and passed its order on the basis of documents alone.”
The source added, "The Portuguese court's order will have no impact on the trials against Salem for now ... The CBI will propose to file an appeal in the Portuguese Constitutional court; we would examine the translated version of the Portuguese supreme court’s order when the agency gets it."
According to another source, “There was no laid down procedure to return a suspect once he is extradited. The government can decide not to send Salem back after considering the costs involved, but then it will be nearly impossible to get any other criminal extradited from Portugal in the future."
According to the CBI source, Salem had actively participated in the transportation and distribution of sophisticated arms and ammunition, which were smuggled into India as part of the 1993 Mumbai blasts conspiracy.
CBI's spokesperson Dharini Mishra said, “The trial courts in Mumbai and Lucknow have already dismissed Salem’s appeal citing breach of Rule of Speciality.” She rejected fears that the Portuguese court order might affect the outcome of other extradition cases.
With inputs from Aloke Tikku