In an embarrassment to the government, a Lisbon High Court ordered termination of extradition of underworld don Abu Salem for breach of agreement by India, which slapped on him offences attracting the death penalty.
The court allowed the plea of Salem, being tried in eight criminal cases including 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, that he be sent back to Portugal, lawyers said.
The gangster, extradited from Portugal in November 2005, was also charged with the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for allegedly making extortion calls to Delhi-based businessman Ashok Gupta in 2002 demanding Rs. 5 crore as protection money.
The Libson court said that in view of the new charges which entailed the death penalty, the authorisation granted for Salem's extradition was terminated.
A Bench, comprising judges Carlos Rodrigues de Almeida, Horacio Tlolucas and Fernando Estrela, said invoking the special statute against the extradited person violated the principle of speciality.
India had given Portugal an ‘executive assurance' that Salem would not be given the death penalty or charged with any Section of law which entailed jail for more than 25 years, once he was extradited.
The Indian government is examining the development and would soon approach the Portuguese Supreme Court challenging the High Court order.
If India fails to convince the Portuguese judiciary, Salem may have to be sent back to a jail in Lisbon.
In 2005, the National Democratic Alliance government gave the executive assurance that Salem would be tried only in eight cases and would not be awarded imprisonment exceeding 25 years. It was also vowed that he would not be tried under any special law.
The CBI justified dropping of MCOCA charges saying it had no option but to agree to Portugal's conditions as the gangster was holding a Pakistani passport and could have been deported to any country.
Salem's counsel approached the Portuguese High Court after the Indian Supreme Court dismissed his plea last year and upheld the designated TADA court's decision to frame additional charges against him for the 1993 Mumbai blasts, in addition to the other grave charges for which he was extradited to face trial in India.