A special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court on Wednesday sentenced gangster Abu Salem and one of his accomplices to life imprisonment for the murder of Mumbai-based builder Pradeep Jain.
In Salem's first conviction under the stringent the TADA act, the court had held him guilty of the murder of Jain on February 16. The gangster's former driver Mehendi Hassan and an 86-year-old builder, VK Jhamb, had also been convicted in the 20-year-old case.
Hassan too was sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to the prosecution, a conspiracy was hatched in October 1994 by Salem, Hassan, Kayyum Ansari, Naeem Khan and wanted accused Anees Kaskar in Dubai to force Jain brothers to surrender the rights of a property located in Dongri, Andheri.
According to police, Jain was shot dead on March 7, 1995 outside his Juhu bungalow after he allegedly refused to give up the huge property to Salem. His brother escaped with a bullet injury.
His family had alleged that they were receiving threats from the underworld demanding money and their property.
The court also imposed a fine on Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in 2005 in connection with nine cases, and Hassan, stating 50% of the amount would go to Jain's widow.
The court's order came as a surprise particularly because the extradition treaty had barred India from sentencing Salem to death or putting him behind bars for more than 25 years.
After the verdict, Salem's counsel said that India's treaty with Portugal stands terminated as the verdict is in violation of the extradition treaty.
"Even the Supreme Court had asked to drop the charges which are not included in the extradition order. According to which the charges of conspiracy had to be dropped. We will challenge this order," said Salem's advocate Saba Qureshi.
Sudeep Pasbola, senior counsel appearing for Salem, had earlier argued that the court should fulfill the sovereign guarantee which India had given to Portugal while extraditing Salem.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had contended that the assurance given by the government of India, which is the executive wing of the Constitution, and the judiciary has nothing to do with such assurance as both are independent.
He argued that the assurance or such a treaty is not binding upon the judiciary as it is a different wing of the Indian constitution.
Nikam further said that if terms of the treaty were considered by the court while sentencing Salem it would amount to interference by the executive.
In the trial, which began in 2008, the prosecution examined around 25 witnesses and the defense questioned only 1.
Salem, who is also facing a trial in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, was extradited from Portugal on November 11, 2005, after a prolonged legal battle.