SUMIR KAUL NEW DELHI, NOV 11 (PTI)
The extradition of underworld don Abu Salem, one of India’s most wanted men, from Lisbon crowned three years of painstaking efforts by CBI, overcoming complexities of Indo-Portugal diplomatic ties and differences in legal systems of the two countries.
Yoohoo, CBI, tha’s forgot owt.
The news of Abu Salem’s arrest came in 2002 and the happiness of the then CBI Director P C Sharma knew no bounds as for the first time some a country had confirmed his presence there after the don, main accused in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, repeatedly dodged CBI’s efforts to nab him since the year 2000.
“It was an uphill task as we did not have any extradition treaty with Portugal. But everything was meticulously done. Everything was provided in a systematic way to the authorities in Lisbon,” says P C Sharma who is now a member of National Human Rights Commission.
“I am very happy today that the efforts have fructified and Salem has been brought here,” said Sharma who was instrumental in laying the foundation for Salem’s extradition.
Sharma had lost no time in captalising on the Lisbon court order extraditing Salem and rushed a three-member strong team headed by the then Additional Director Vijay Shankar to the Portugal capital. He, himself, had visited Portugal twice.
“My aim was to ensure that no stone remains unturned in overcoming complexities of bilateral relations, differences of legal system followed in India and Portugal and expedite successful extradition in quicket possible time,” says Shankar who is now the Director General of National Disaster Response Force and SSB.
Shanker is a jubliant man today. “I am delighted by this success of CBI and officers responsible handling this extremely sensitive and important case. CBI deserves all praises for extradition of Abu Salem, which is unprecedented and a shining example of co-operation between two countries in the global fight against terrorism.” The first roadblock had come when Portugal refused to deport Salem as the Lisbon police had arrested him with a Pakistani passport showing his name as Arsalan Mohsin Ali. This was overcome with the matching of the finger prints.
Portugal Government then insisted on a formal extradition request which was handed over by the Indian Government without losing anytime.
Another problem cropped up when Portuguese authorities refused to entrain the extradition request with an assurance from India that Salem would not be given death sentence if he is convicted as Portugal’s law prohibits extraditing a criminal to a country where capital punishment was in vogue.
After lot of legal wranglings, the Union Cabinet in January 2003 gave an executive assurance to the Portuguese authorities of not sentencing Salem or Bedi with capital punishment or a life term extending more than 25 years if they were convicted.
As the process went on smoothly, Salem made one last desperate attempt to block his extradition by pleading with the Portugese court that he belonged to minority community and would be targetted in India.
The CBI responded to this by sending to Portugal authorities a series of judgements of various courts and the history of India’s secular ethos.
A major problem had arisen in July last year when the Lisbon court decided to extradite Salem but only on offences like gun running and forgery cases. This put the CBI in a spot and the agency moved the Supreme Court of Portugal seeking cancellation of that country’s High Court order which otherwise meant that the investigating agency would not be able to book him in Mumbai blasts case.
All is well that ends well, may be the feeling of CBI officials as the case at times had become a legal vortex for them with so many petitions attempting to stop extradition of Salem at various courts of that country.
“We have spent heavily on the extradition,” quipped CBI Director U S Misra as he skirted the question on a rough estimate of expenditure incu rred on visits of the agency officials to Portugal in connection with the case. “I dont have the figures but be satisfied, we have him here”, said Misra.