Gangster Abu Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in 2005 in connection with nine cases, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday by a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) (TADA) court for the 1995 murder of builder Pradeep Jain. Salem’s accomplice Mehendi Hassan, too, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to the police, Jain was shot dead on March 7, 1995 outside his Juhu bungalow. The family had claimed they were receiving threats from the underworld.
The court also imposed a fine on Salem and Hassan of Rs8 lakh and Rs8.65 lakh respectively, and stated that 50% of the amount would go to Jain’s widow.
The court, while convicting three of the accused on February 26, had held that in October 1994, Salem, Hassan, Kayyum Ansari, Naeem Khan and wanted accused Anees Kaskar came up with a plan in Dubai to pressurise and force Jain and his brother to surrender the rights of a property in Kol Dongri, Andheri. When the brothers refused to give up the plot and allegedly abused Salem, he conspired to kill Jain.
The verdict came as a surprise to Salem, particularly because the extradition treaty had barred India from sentencing Salem to death or putting him behind bars for more than 25 years.
Sudeep Pasbola, senior counsel appearing for Salem, had earlier argued that the court should fulfil the sovereign guarantee that India had given to Portugal while extraditing Salem. After the sentencing, Salem’s defence counsel said India’s treaty with Portugal stands terminated because the verdict is in violation of the treaty.
“Even the Supreme Court had asked to drop the charges that are not included in the extradition order, after which conspiracy charge had to be dropped. We will challenge this order,” said Salem’s advocate Saba Qureshi.
Hassan’s wife, who did not want to reveal her name, said the verdict is a shock to the family and they would appeal in a higher court. “We do not have the money to pay the fine. He was just a driver and was not involved in such activities. We had submitted all the documents to the court, but everything has been discarded. We are shattered,” she said.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had contended that the assurance was given by the government of India, which is a part of the executive wing of the constitution, and the judiciary has nothing to do with the assurance. Nikam said if terms of the treaty were considered by the court while sentencing Salem, it would amount to interference by the executive.
VK Jhamb, 86, who was also convicted in the case, was given a set off on account of his age and deteriorating health condition. Jhamb was in jail for nearly nine months after his arrest in 2005.
“No fruitful purpose will be served by sending him to jail. If he is sent to jail even for a day, it would amount to death sentence for this accused,” the court stated.