The special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Friday discharged extradited gangster Abu Salem of the stringent charges in the Ajit Dewani murder case after the state government made an application requesting dropping the MCOCA charges, as it was not the part of extradition treaty.
The government told the court that not dropping the charges would have “serious political and diplomatic implications” between India and Portugal.
Special MCOCA judge R.G. Avchat pronouncing the order said, “The accused is in jail, he be set at liberty in this case.”
State had moved the application after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wrote a letter to the Mumbai police stating that application of MCOCA against Salem would violate the extradition treaty.
“Extraditee can only be prosecuted for the offences for which he has been extradited,” the CBI letter stated. Further,
the letter said that the lawyers in Lisbon have advised the CBI that if the charge of MCOCA is not withdrawn then the Portuguese high court may terminate the authorisation of extradition.
Ajit Dewani, personal secretary of Manisha Koirala, was shot dead outside his Oshiwara office on June 30, 2001. The police had arrested six accused — Upendra Singh, Nijamuddin Abdul Rauf, Khan, Akilesh Kumar Bijendranath, Ayub Ibrahim Patel and Saheblal Santosh Giri. According to prosecution, accused Upendra Singh and Deepak Singh barged into Dewani’s office in Lokhandwala and shot at him at point blank range. They escaped in a car provided by Khan.
The prosecution sought dropping of charges under MCOCA and that of criminal conspiracy, murder, house-trespass punishable
with death and harboring offender under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
With these stringent charges being dropped against Salem, he shall be tried for wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, forgery, forgery for cheating and using a forged document as genuine in this case.
However, according to Abu Salem’s lawyer Teg Bahadur Thakur, even other charges cannot be leveled against him, as he was not in India in 2001 and cannot be charged with cheating and forgery.
After the order, special public prosecutor Jimmy Madon said that Salem had to be discharged completely. “It is up to the state to frame charges under Indian Penal Code and Arms Act against him,” said Madon. “The trial against the other accused would continue,” he added.