Fake threat, real punishment: SoBo businessman given life term for planting hijack letter on Jet flight
In a first, a special National Investigating Agency (NIA) court has sentenced a Mumbai-based businessman to life imprisonment for planting a hijack letter in a Delhi-bound Jet Airways flight in 2017.
This is the first time a person has been sentenced under the country’s new and stringent Anti-Hijacking Act.
Judge M.K Dave of the NIA court in Ahmedabad also fined the convict, Birju Kishor Salla, Rs 5 crore for violations of various provisions of the act.
Out of the Rs 5 crore fine, both pilot and co-pilot will be given a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each, each hostess will get Rs 50,000 and each passenger will be paid Rs 25,000 for the unimaginable ‘mental stress and trauma’.
In October 2017, an air hostess found a threat note in the washroom of the business class of a Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways flight, which stated that “there are hijackers on board and explosives on the plane“.
“Flight number 9W 339 is covered by hijackers and aircraft should not land and be flown straight to POK. 12 people on board. If you put landing gear you will hear people dying. Don’t take it as a joke. Cargo area contains explosives and will blast if you land in Delhi. Allah is great,” the note read.
After the threat was brought to the notice of the Captain, he sought the permission of Air Traffic Controller in Ahmedabad for an emergency landing. The plane was parked at a remote bay of Ahmedabad airport and all 122 people were deplaned.
Initially, the case was registered and investigated by Crime Branch, who arrested Birju on the basis of suspicion.
Following Birju’s arrest, NIA re-registered the case under sections 3(1), 3(2)(a) and 4(b) of Anti Hijacking Act, 2016 and took over the investigation later that year.
NIA established that the accused had intentionally committed the act to disrupt the operation of aircraft. In January 2018, the charge sheet was filed in the NIA Special Court against the accused.
Birju, who was one of only three passengers in the business class of the flight, confessed to planting the note during interrogation.
He had typed the note in his office and a soft copy of the same was found on his laptop. The accused reportedly planted the threat note with the intention of coaxing his lady friend, a Jet Airways employee, who had refused to live with him
Birju, who hails from a prominent South Bombay-based jeweller family, wanted to create trouble for the airline in the hope that she would lose her job and agree to move to Mumbai. The 38-year-old is married with two children.
The Anti-Hijacking Act came into force in July 2017, replacing the 1982 vintage law. Under the act, an accused can face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment till death and his properties can be confiscated.