NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday deftly stepped around a possible conflict with the Portuguese Supreme Court by allowing CBI to drop six charges under anti-terror law TADA, Explosives Act and Arms Act against Mumbai serial blast accused Abu Salem while maintaining that his extradition to India remained unaffected by the adverse rulings of Portuguese courts.
"It is vividly clear that the order of extradition (against Salem) dated March 28, 2003 still stands valid and effective in the eyes of law," a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar said. It also vacated the February 17, 2012 stay on trial against Salem in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
The bench was of the view that though the top Portuguese courts found India had breached the assurances it had given while seeking Salem's extradition, Union of India was not directed to return the gangster who was arrested in Lisbon while travelling with a Pakistani passport on an assumed name.
Justice Sathasivam narrated the objective behind extradition and its historical significance. "Extradition, throughout the history of the practice, has remained a system consisting of several processes whereby one sovereign surrenders to another sovereign a person sought after as an accused criminal or a fugitive offender," he said.
"This delivery of individuals to a requesting sovereign is usually based on treaties or bilateral agreements but sometimes it also occurs by reciprocity and comity as a matter of courtesy and goodwill between sovereigns as in this case. Therefore, 'world public order' is the recurring theme based on which the extradition is practiced by the states," the CJI added.
Given the repeated assertions from Salem that the extradition stood revoked by the rulings of the Portuguese Supreme Court followed by the concurrence of their Constitutional Court, the bench said both India and Portugal were two sovereign states with efficient and independent judicial systems.
"As a consequence, in unequivocal terms, the verdict by the Constitutional Court of Portugal is not binding on this court but only has persuasive value," Justices Sathasivam and Chelameswar said.
The apex court had earlier said that all charges filed against Salem held good. However, it decided to accept the CBI's request made through attorney general G E Vahanvati for dropping of additional charges slapped on Salem in the hope that it would harmonize its own decision with that of the Portuguese courts.
The court had earlier held that since the additional charges attracted lesser punishment than the charges for which Salem was extradited, it was perfectly legal for the trial court to frame the additional charges.
On Monday, it recorded the AG's assurance that the agency was in the process of withdrawing other charges pending in various states against Salem, which are claimed to be in violation of the extradition order.