Gangster Abu Salem, facing trial in eight criminal cases, was granted bail in a 2002 extortion case by a court here, which also praised his conduct while in judicial custody. However, Salem, who secured bail in another case from a Saket court in May last year, will continue to remain in judicial custody as he has six other cases pending against him. He is lodged in the Taloja Jail, Mumbai.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav granted him bail in the case relating to the alleged extortion of money from a Delhi-based businessman, Puneet Khanna, in 2002, on a personal bond of Rs.1 lakh and a surety of the same amount.

Salem was extradited from Portugal in November 2005 and was formally arrested in the present case by the Delhi Police in 2007.

“This accused [Salem] has already undergone custody of almost five years in this case and even if he is ultimately convicted in this case he could be sentenced for a maximum period of seven years. The provision of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) commands this court to release the accused on bail if he has undergone almost half of the period for which he could be sentenced in the matter,” Mr. Yadav said.

Counsel for Salem, M.S. Khan, argued that the public witnesses had already been examined in this case and that three other accused, Chander Prakash, Sadiq Ali and Ishtiyaq, were already on bail and there was no threat that the accused might influence the remaining witnesses.

In the case at the Saket court, where Salem was granted bail, Defence Counsel Mr. Khan had argued that Salem was charged under Section 384 (extortion) of the Indian Penal Code, which carried a maximum imprisonment of three years, while he had been in judicial custody since December 2007, longer than the maximum sentence possible under Section 384, and hence was eligible for bail.

Additional CMM Rakesh Pandit had on that occasion rejected the Crime Branch application under Section 216 of the Cr.PC for amending the charge against Salem to Section 387 (putting a person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion) which envisages seven years’ imprisonment.

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