New Delhi: A Delhi court today sentenced gangster Abu Salem to seven years rigorous imprisonment for demanding Rs 5 crore as protection money from a Delhi-based businessman in 2002, saying that he is a "hardened criminal" and the punishment should be a lesson for him and others.

Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sehrawat, while passing the order, said that Salem indulged in activities of extending threats and extortion and had been previously involved in several cases. The court imposed the maximum punishment for the offence and a fine of Rs 10,000 on him.

"As per the case of the prosecution, the convict is a hard core criminal who indulged in the activities of extending threats and extortion under the fear of death and he has been previously involved in several cases of similar nature. Therefore, he deserves severe punishment of such a magnitude that the same should be a lesson for the convict and an alarming lesson for others,” the judge said.

The prosecution, while seeking maximum sentence for Salem, had argued that he was an “underworld don” and a "synonym of terror" involved in various heinous offences. Salem's counsel M S Khan had, however, contended that his trial was illegal as the extradition order was terminated by courts in Portugal, from where he was brought to India in 2005. He sought leniency for Salem, saying he has faced continuous incarceration since 2002 when he was detained in Portugal and later in India.

"The convict is not entitled to get any kind of leniency from this court for the purpose of sentence. Hence, I award the convict Abu Salem Ansari the maximum sentence of rigorous imprisonment for seven years and a fine of Rs 10,000," the judge said. The court had convicted Salem in the case on May 26.

The court had, however, acquitted the other accused -- Chanchal Mehta, Majid Khan, Pawan Kumar Mittal and Mohammad Ashraf -- citing lack of evidence against them. One of the accused, Sajjan Kumar Soni, had died during the trial. In the extortion case lodged in Delhi, it was alleged that Salem had demanded Rs 5 crore as protection money from businessman Ashok Gupta, a resident of Greater Kailash in south Delhi, in 2002.

Salem was convicted under sections 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication) of the Indian Penal Code. Advocate Khan had denied the allegations levelled against Salem and contended that the trial in the case violated the order by which the gangster was extradited from Portugal to India. Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in November 2005, is facing various other cases, including those related to the 1993 Mumbai blasts. He is currently lodged in Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai. (PTI)