Notorious gangster Abu Salem, who at present is lodged in a Mumbai jail, has got bail in an extortion case after the Delhi Police could not convince a magisterial court here to slap harsher penal charges against him.
Salem, who was extradited from Portugal to face trial in a number of cases including the Mumbai serial blasts, was granted bail by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Rakesh Pandit on furnishing personal and surety bonds of Rs.1 lakh each.
He was charged under Section 384 (extortion) of the Indian Penal Code which carries a maximum imprisonment of three years. His lawyer, M. S. Khan, argued that Salem had been in judicial custody since December 2007, longer than the maximum sentence possible under 384, and hence was eligible for bail.
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch moved an application under Section 216 of the Criminal Procedure Code for amending the charge against Salem to Section 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion) which envisages seven years' imprisonment.
The prosecution cited a Supreme Court order on September 10, 2010, in another case involving Salem in which the apex court directed that he “can be charged for offences other than those for which he was extradited”.
While the prosecution interpreted this as latitude to amend the present charge against Salem, Mr. Pandit took note that the apex court order had also emphasised that the trial should be done only on “lesser offences”, which carry lesser punishment as provisioned under Section 21 of the Extradition Act.
“So in these circumstances, the offence under Section 387 IPC, based on the same facts, cannot be said to be a ‘lesser offence' vis-à-vis offence under Section 384,” Mr. Pandit said.