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1993 Mumbai Blasts Case: Why Abu Salem Got Life Sentence, While Yakub Memon Was Hanged

File photo of Abu Salem/Reuters

File photo of Abu Salem/Reuters

OP Chatwal, the retired Director General of Investigation, recalls Abu Salem had used the fake identity of a Pakistani national to escape the gallows in India and how an amendment was made to the Indian Extradition Act of 1962 to facilitate his extradition.

New Delhi: OP Chatwal, the retired Director General of Investigation (DGI), CBI, vividly remembers how “Arsalan Mohsin Ali” (Abu Salem), a ‘Pakistani’ national was extradited along with “Sana Malik Kamal” (Monica Bedi) to India from Lisbon, Portugal in November 2005.

Chatwal was the man who led the eight-member CBI team to Lisbon to bring Salem and Monica back to Mumbai.

Speaking to News18, he recalls Salem had used the fake identity of a Pakistani national to escape the gallows in India and how an amendment was made to the Indian Extradition Act of 1962 to facilitate his extradition.

“We had to give an assurance to Portugal that he will not be given death sentence. Without this assurance he could not have been extradited. Once life imprisonment is given in Portugal, he cannot be kept imprisoned beyond 25 years. He has been convicted of Section 123 of the IPC added with 302, and Section 32 of TADA. The maximum sentence under these sections is death, but Salem cannot be awarded death because of the amendment in the law in 1993,” said Chatwal.

“He is brought from a country which bars capital punishment. The 1993 amendment to the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 and Section 34 (c) was needed because the government of India was facing problems in getting Salem extradited from a country which had banned death sentence. Hence, this amendment acted as an assurance to those countries,” Chatwal told News18.

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Yakub Memon, brother of prime absconding accused Tiger Memon, was hanged in 2015, and the others have served or are serving time.

Among the important cases that Chatwal has handled was the Indian Airlines IC-421 hijacking in August 1984 at the height of the Punjab militancy. Chatwal and his team nailed the six terrorists and ensured that they got life imprisonment.

The investigation in the 1993 Bombay Blasts Case was long-drawn, said Chatwal, and the procedure began after a ‘Red Corner Notice’ was issued against Salem.

“We were searching for him throughout the world. We were informed that he is in Portugal in 2002 and we got in touch with Portuguese forces,” said the former CBI investigation expert.

The main hurdle for the police was the aspect of dual criminality as Salem had faked his identity in Portugal. After crossing this hurdle, the government stumbled upon the fact that there is no death sentence in Portugal and life imprisonment is only for 25 years.

“We needed some strong identity documents to prove that he was indeed Salem as he had changed his identity and nationality. On the basis of inputs given by us, Salem was arrested by Portuguese police. We had sent them the fingerprints of Salem from the Bombay Police to Portugal to find out his identity. He had made a fake Pakistani passport in the name of Arsalan Mohsin Ali. But because of his fingerprints, his identity was established, along with that of Monica Bedi. She had also used a fake passport in the name of Sana Malik Kamal. She was tried by a different CBI court in Hyderabad,” said Chatwal.

After a long-drawn legal battle, Salem’s extradition happened in 2005. “Our request for deportation was not agreed to by the Government of Portugal. Then after the amendment in the law, we got his custody and he was brought to India in November 2005,” said Chatwal.
first published:September 07, 2017, 13:34 IST