In a major breather for underworld don Abu Salem, the Delhi High Court yesterday dropped charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in a 2002 extortion case. Justice VK Shali, allowing a batch of petitions filed by the Delhi Police and Abu Salem that sought dropping of MCOCA charges against the latter, asked that these be withdrawn.
Salem, extradited from Portugal in 2005, was booked under the Act for allegedly making extortion calls to Delhi-based businessman Ashok Gupta, demanding Rs 5 crore as protection money. A trial court in 2009 dismissed the police plea seeking to withdraw the MCOCA charges against Salem, who then approached the Delhi High Court.
The Supreme Court of Portugal recently rejected India’s appeal and cancelled Salem’s extradition, saying the CBI had violated the terms of the extradition treaty between the two countries. The court accused the Indian agencies of violating the conditions under which he was permitted to be taken to India in November 2005 to face trial in eight cases, including the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
Aggrieved by the Portugal Supreme Court’s order, India approached the Constitutional Court of Portugal which stayed the Supreme Court order.
The Constitutional Court stayed the order after admitting India’s plea, in which it gave an executive assurance to Portugal that it would not slap any charges which invoke the death penalty for Salem and would not keep him behind bars for more than 25 years.
In February, the Supreme Court stayed all further proceedings in the two cases before the Mumbai TADA court, in connection with Salem’s alleged involvement in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. An apex court bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice J Chelameswar, while issuing notice to the central government through the external affairs ministry and the CBI, observed that it involved the larger question of whether the executive decisions by the government would affect the judicial pronouncements of the courts in Portugal.