Abu Salem opposes trial through video conferencing

Extradited gangster Abu Salem on Wednesday opposed conducting proceedings against him through video conferencing in a court here.

New Delhi: Extradited gangster Abu Salem
on Wednesday opposed conducting proceedings against him through video conferencing in a court here in an extortion case, contending
it would violate his extradition conditions besides affecting
his right to a fair trial.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kaveri Baweja, however,
assured Salem of fair trial. The Delhi Police argued the
proceedings conducted through video conferencing would not
prejudice his right in any manner.

"At the time of his extradition in 2005, it was clearly
mentioned in the terms and conditions that he would be tried
in person (in his physical presence)," Arvind Kumar Shukla,
counsel for Salem, told the court.

The right to a fair trial of the accused would also be
affected if the proceedings were conducted without his
physical presence, the counsel said, adding similar efforts to
conduct his trial in other cases in Lucknow and Hyderabad did
not bear fruit and had to be aborted.

One of the terms of his extradition was that his case
shall be publicly examined, Shukla said.

Prosecutor Rajeev Mohan, on the other hand, supported
conducting trial through video conferencing claiming
shuttling the accused between Mumbai and Delhi on every date
to ensure his presence caused loss to government and also
created a security threat.

The court, however gave the prosecution time to file a
detailed reply on Salem`s plea opposing the video conferencing
till August 27.

During the arguments, the prosecutor said the Portugal
Supreme Court had also only stated that every constitutional
right and safeguard should be made available to Salem during
his trial in Indian courts.

"The concept of video conferencing has not been evolved
for Abu Salem only. The practice has long been here as part of
the witness protection programme," Mohan said.

Enumerating the conditions imposed for Salem`s
extradition from Portugal, he said it was stated that his
trial should not be conducted in an "exceptional" court and
that he cannot be awarded death penalty, cannot be jailed for
over 25 years nor can be tried under any special statute.

Salem`s counsel, however, insisted that the trial
should be conducted in the physical presence of the accused
and claimed the conduct of accused since his incarceration at
Arthur Road prison in Mumbai in 2005 has been
"extra-ordinarily good".

He also expressed willingness of the accused to conduct
trial on a day-to-day basis to avoid the hassle being caused
to security agencies. The accused could also be kept in Tihar
here in that case, he said.

The court had on August four mooted the idea of
recording evidence in the case against gangster Salem through
video conferencing and sought replies from the prosecution.

Salem, extradited from Portugal in November, 2005, is
being tried along with three others Ishtiya Ahmed, C P Rai and
Sadiq Ali for allegedly making threat calls to businessmen
Puneet Khanna and Rajat Nagrath, owner of Delhi-based Allied
Communications, demanding Rs one crore in 2002.

Meanwhile, Salem filed another application pleading for
amending the charges framed against him in the extortion case,
which was put up for hearing for August 27 by the court.

He had been charged with Section 387 (putting a person
under threat of death to commit extortion), 120 B (criminal
conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 385 (putting a
person under fear of injury to commit extortion) of the IPC on
July seven.

The court is also likely to hear the prosecution`s
arguments on Salem`s bail plea in the matter on August 27.

Bureau Report