Helpless CBI says, ‘Abu Salem deserves to be hanged, but our hands tied’

MUMBAI: Asking for a lower sentence for Abu Salem in the March 12, 1993, Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, Deepak Salvi, special public prosecutor for the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) on Tuesday said, “Though he deserves death, I am bound to seek a life sentence

Salvi concluded his submissions on sentencing by also seeking life imprisonment for Riyaz Siddiqui, held guilty on June 16 for abetment under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) to cause the blasts that killed 257 and injured 713.

Though Salvi began listing aggravating circumstances against Salem, his defence counsel Sudeep Pasbola immediately objected saying that, ‘Since death was not sought, it cannot be given, there is no reason to mention these factors now’

Additionally, Special Tada Judge G A Sanap, too, asked Salvi why he was arguing the aggravating factors for Salem.

‘There are aggravating circumstances which could render a case for death penalty, but for Section 34C of Extradition Act, which prevents seeking of capital punishment for him,’ Salvi said.

In 2005, Salem was extradited from Portugal. Under the Extradition Act, Salem cannot be awarded the death penalty as Portugal does not provide for death penalty.

Salem was accused as “one of the main conspirators of the main conspiracy” for knowingly facilitating transport and supply of arms and ammunitions and playing an “extremely significant role”.

“In the circumstances, though nothing short of the death penalty would aptly fit the demonic crime committed by him, it is prayed, albeit with a heavy heart and a reluctant disposition… to award the punishment for life imprisonment,” said Salvi.

“Salem is a habitual offender and an incorrigible recidivist, hence leaving no room whatsoever for the accused to assert that there is even a faint glimmer of hope for the accused to reform,” added Salvi.

For Riyaz, Salvi sought the maximum prescribed punishment—life sentence—and backed his plea by pointing out how he had remained “willfully absconding”.

On Wednesday, Pasbola will begin submissions on the mitigating factors for Taher Merchant and Salem. The court denied a plea by Feroz Khan’s lawyer Wahab Khan seeking a week “to prepare” his arguments. Khan also sought permission to bring back the two inmates as defence witnesses to establish that Feroz deserves a softer sentence. The judge asked him if Feroz had paid Rs 2,000 imposed on him for failing to examine them earlier last week when they were brought to court.

The court declined his plea to waive the amount, though advocate Khan said his client had no money due to his incarceration since 2010. He was ordered to pay additional Rs 5,000 to get the two inmates back on the witness stand.