Police are seeking withdrawal of charges on the gangster under MCOCA, as the Portuguese government is now contending his extradition

The Delhi high court on Tuesday deferred a Delhi police plea to December 20, which sought withdrawal of charges under stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against gangster Abu Salem. According to the police, these charges have jeopardised Salem's extradition.

Abu Salem. File pic

Justice V K Shali deferred the hearing after the Delhi police counsel sought an adjournment, as the senior counsel was not available today. On October 21, the court had panned the city police for being "lax" while filing the chargesheet in the trial court against Abu Salem under MCOCA.

'Time is of the essence'
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Haren Rawal, appearing for the police, had during the last hearing sought an early hearing of the plea, saying that "otherwise the extradition of the accused would be in jeopardy". The Portuguese high court had recently ruled that Salem should be sent back from India, as the latter had violated the terms and conditions of the extradition treaty, according to which, no charge that carries a punishment of life imprisonment or death sentence can be imposed on the accused.

"Why was the state lax when the chargesheet against Salem was filed under MCOCA and charges were framed in contravention of the extradition agreement? You are trying to take advantage of your own wrong," Justice Shali said while issuing a notice to Salem, lodged at Arthur Road jail in Mumbai.

Blast from the past
Salem, a key accused in the Mumbai serial blasts case along with fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim, and his girlfriend Monica Bedi, were extradited to India on November 11, 2005, after a legal process in Portugal that lasted for three years. Salem is to face trial in nine cases. Salem was also charged with MCOCA for allegedly making extortion calls to Delhi-based businessman Ashok Gupta in 2002, demanding Rs five crore as protection money.