A day after the 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Abu Salem was shot at in Taloja Central Jail by another inmate, his lawyer Saba Qureshi rubbished rumours that her client had planned Thursday’s hit on himself.
But police sources told this newspaper they believe the shootout was a ploy to strengthen his case for repatriation to Portugal, from where the alleged don was deported to India in 2005.
Qureshi said, “This is the second attempt on his life. Moreover, had he wanted to do anything, he could have done it earlier... He has been in jail for several years. Would the jail authorities cooperate in smuggling a weapon? It is nonsense. In fact, he saw the gun and moved backwards, which is why his life was saved.”
She said Salem had thus far been seeking relief through proper channels all this time, so there was no question of him planning such a drastic act.
Significantly, though, she stated that she now intended to move an application to have her client sent back to Portugal. “I am in the process of collecting documents, and we will file in a few days,” she added that Salem’s case is due to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court next month.
Salem was shot at in the prison by Devendra Jagtap alias JD, an accused in lawyer Shahid Azmi’s murder case. The gangster was lodged back in his cell yesterday, following treatment at JJ Hospital for an injury after one of the bullets Jagtap fired is said to have grazed his hand.
On Salem’s relationship with Jagtap, Qureshi said, “There has never been any association between Jagtap and my client, friendly or otherwise. They don’t know each other but are in the same prison. Jagtap is a professional shooter who must have been hired.”
Meanwhile, alleged gangster Santosh Shetty’s lawyer Kaushik Mhatre denied his client’s involvement in the shooting. He told MiD DAY, “My client has nothing to do with the shooting. In fact he doesn’t even know JD. Shetty is currently lodged at Arthur Road jail. How could he have anything to do with this shooting?”
In 2010 Jagtap, 35, was arrested for the murder of Shahid Azmi, lawyer of 26/11 accused Fahim Ansari, and incarcerated in Taloja as an undertrial. His lawyer Abhay Apte said, “Jagtap started out as an estate agent and had a business in land dealing. He comes from a decent family and is well educated. In fact, his father is a lawyer. He was always ready to help people. Eight years ago, he’d loaned some money to a local over which there was a disagreement. That man tried to dupe him. Due to some of his activities he got pulled into crime.”
Apte claimed that as per his conversations with Jagtap, he was a person who disliked harassing people. He has not spoken to his client since the firing took place on Thursday night. “He was produced in court today (Friday). I am yet to speak to him,” Apte said. A source added, “Jagtap got involved in a scuffle over property and that’s how he first appeared on the police radar. The cops later implicated him in other cases as well. That is how he got involved with the underworld.” Said Apte, “Jagtap was named by slain lawyer Azmi’s peon. Police later claimed to have recovered some weapons from him.”