On Thursday the Supreme court told the center that the government cannot “Hum and haw” over its solemn assurance to Portugal that gangster Abu Salem will not be sentenced to a prison term over 25 years or face the death penalty. The court said that the government has to take an “unequivocal stand” as to whether it would abide by the assurance given to Portugal or not.
Displeasure over certain portions of an affidavit filed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla expressed by a Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul, which said that the court should focus on deciding life sentence in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case and Salem’s appeal against his conviction .
The court was told by Mr. Bhalla that it was “premature” to discuss the assurance given in 2002, the “ appropriate time” to discuss would be in 2030 when the end of the 25 - period comes up . The question of complying with the assurance would be examined when it arises in 2030 subject to “remedies available”, the Home Secretary had told the court .
The “appropriate time” to discuss the assurance was “right now” when Salem’s appeal against his conviction and life sentence was pending before it said the court .
Justice Kaul addressed Additional Solicitor General K .M. Nataraj that “ today, we have to decide whether to confirm his conviction and life sentence. . . .”
The court had to also decide whether the appeal of Salem’s 25 – year period starting from the very day he was taken into custody in Portugal . “ All this has to be decided now . You have to take a stand now . You decided to extradite him from Portugal through a court process. For his extradition , you gave an assurance . . . Then what is the point of saying ‘ we will think about it at the appropriate time and subject to remedies available then’ ?” Justice Kaul asked .
"I don't understand some part of the affidavit. What we have to do, we will do... He should not be telling us after two opportunities to file the affidavit. I don't take it kindly" , Justice Kaul added .
At this, Justice Kaul asked: "You don't want to take a stand?"
The bench added that the government took a decision to bring him to India by giving an assurance through a court process. "This court has to be conscious of the fact that in your wisdom you have given an assurance. I don't understand what the other remedies area," it said.
“ Virtually lectures us on what we should do or not to do” , the court stated in Mr. Bhalla’s affidavit. Justice Kaul also said that “ The Home Secretary is no one to tell us what we should do . . . Some portions of the affidavit are completely meaningless . . . ‘’
The court scheduled the case for May 5.