Indian court jails Mumbai businessman for life for threatening to hijack a plane

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, June 11: A special court of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) in Ahmedabad in Gujarat state on Tuesday convicted a Mumbai-based businessman for threatening to hijack a Delhi-bound Jet airways flight in 2017.

This is the first conviction under the amended anti-hijacking law. NIA special court judge M K Dave convicted the businessman and sentenced him to life term. The NIA court also slapped an INR 50-million fine on Salla.

Salla will have to pay a compensation of INR 1,00,000 each to the pilot and co-pilot, INR 50,000 each to two air-hostesses and INR 25,000 each to all

the passengers. There were 116 passengers, seven crew members and two pilots on board when Salla allegedly planted the note.

NIA public prosecutor Geeta Godambe had earlier submitted before the court that Salla should be given life imprisonment. NIA had on January 22, 2018, filed a charge-sheet under the stringent Anti-Hijacking Act against the 38-year-old Mumbai businessman, who was arrested for threatening to hijack a Mumbai-Delhi bound Jet Airways flight on October 30, 2017.

The Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways plane had to make an emergency landing at the Ahmedabad airport after the pilot was alerted about the threat-note, which mentioned that there were hijackers and a bomb in the cargo area. The note was found in the plane's washroom by a cabin crew.

According to the Act, amended in 2016 to include even making threats of "hijacking" a serious offence under which convict faces life term, Salla was charged under section 3 (1), 3(2) and 4(b) of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016, which deals with intentionally seizing or exercising control of an aircraft in service by force or threatening to hijack the plane.

After investigation, it has been established that Salla, who had then travelled in the business class of the Jet Airways flight 9W339 from Mumbai, prepared a ‘threat note’ in ‘English’ and ‘Urdu’ languages and he intentionally placed it in the tissue paper box of the toilet near the business class thereby jeopardized the safety of the passengers and crew members on board.

NIA had claimed in its chargesheet that Salla wanted to defame the private airline and have its operation discontinued so as to teach a lesson to a woman friend working for the airline.

Later during his interrogation, Salla had disclosed that he first compiled the material for the threat letter on his laptop and used some software to translate it into Urdu. Salla had later taken a printout and carried it with him in the flight before placing it in the toilet.

With this threat note, Salla allegedly wanted his female friend to know the consequences of not agreeing to live with him. He thought she could lose her job this way as Jet's operations would be closed and the airline would be defamed.

During his jail term of over 1.5 years, Salla had unsuccessfully sought bail from the courts for over ten times. The aviation ministry had handed over the case to NIA in November 2017. Salla also become the first person to be put on the 'National No Fly List', eight months after it was unveiled.

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