Gangster Abu Salem and his former driver Mehndi Hasan were sentenced to life imprisonment here Wednesday for the brutal daylight killing of Mumbai builder Pradeep Jain in March 1995. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said Salem has also been fined Rs.200,000 by the Special TADA Court.
Salem, also accused in the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, was arrested in Portugal and later extradited to India in November 2005. “Abu Salem is sentenced to life imprisonment for the offences of murder and criminal conspiracy,” Special TADA Judge G. A. Sanap said, while pronouncing the verdict in the high profile case.
“This is a significant judgement and will give a strong jolt to the gangs of Salem and Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar as it has now been judicially proved that Salem along with Anees Ibrahim Kaskar had hatched a criminal conspiracy for committing terror acts in India,” Nikam told media-persons soon after the sentencing.
According to police, Jain was shot dead inside his Juhu bungalow March 7, 1995 over a property dispute. His brother Sunil Jain said that at least four gunmen fired indiscriminately at Jain who sustained over a dozen bullet injuries. Sunil Jain also suffered two bullet injuries of six rounds fired at him, but later managed to drive his brother to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead.
The trio – Salem and Hasan, along with another octogenarian co-accused V. K. Jhamb – were found guilty by the Special TADA Court last week. Jhamb, who is now wheelchair-bound, shall not be taken into custody as his jail term has been adjusted against time already spent behind bars. The sentencing followed intense arguments on the quantum of punishment between the prosecution and the defence counsels in the past few days.
Earlier, Nikam had sought the death sentence for both Salem and Hasan, but later argued for life – the death penalty could not be given to Salem under the provisions of the extradition treaty signed between India and Portugal. Salem’s counsel Sudeep Pasgola argued that under the treaty provisions, the accused (Salem) could be given only a total of 25 years jail term under all the nine cases in which he has been charged.
He was replying to the prosecution’s demand for life imprisonment to Salem till his natural death. On the punishment for Hasan, Pasgola contended that as the vehicle driver, he only helped the killers with arms and hence was not directly involved in the killing.
The conspiracy was entered into in Dubai in October-November 1994 by Salem, Hasan, accused absconders Anees Ibrahim Kaskar and Shaukat Mistry, and Naeem Khan, an accused in the case who later turned approver and provided clinching evidence to the court during the trial. (IANS)