A couple of years ago, a Jet Airways business class passenger, Birju Salla, planted an elaborate threat on board 9W 339 from Mumbai to Delhi, threatening to blow up the plane if they flew to Delhi.
It turned out, the passenger was a habitual offender. He had printed a hijack threat in both English and Urdu and brought along with him on the flight. After take-off, he went to the business class lavatory and placed his note amongst the paper napkins.
When a crew member noticed the hijack threat, they informed the Captain immediately. The plane was diverted to Ahmedabad.
Law enforcement agencies took charge of the aircraft and found out that the threat was a hoax. There was an interrogation of the crew and the passengers, and since Birju Salla was the only passenger to have used that particular washroom, he was the prime suspect.
He confessed to the crime and told investigators that he had done it in the hope that it would force Jet Airways to close its Delhi operation, go bankrupt and his girlfriend, who worked in the airline’s Delhi office, would come to Mumbai.
The Indian Government had recently introduced the Anti Hijacking Act 2016, which replaced an old law of 1982. They also added a no-fly list for unruly passengers after this incident. Birju Salla is the first one to be convicted under the Anti Hijacking Act as well as the first person on the no-fly list.
The Anti Hijacking Act is a stringent act as it should be. You can read the entire law here if you want. A specialised National Investigative Agency (NIA) court on June 11, 2019, sentenced Birju Salla to life imprisonment under this act. The court has even fined him INR 5 crores (USD 720,000).
According to Birju Salla’s lawyer, Rohit Verma,
I am yet to read the full judgement. Of course we will go in appeal against the verdict. But you must understand that there are only two kinds of punishment under the new anti-hijacking law – life imprisonment until death, or a death sentence. If a hostage is killed, the punishment is death. In lesser circumstances the sentence is life. So the judge had only these two options. Also, there is a provision of fine, and of confiscating moveable and immovable properties. Salla’s assets which he had on his person, like his cellphone, credit cards and Rs 4 lakh in cash, were confiscated. The judge has not said anything about his immovable assets.
There are several cases where someone places a hijack call to get a flight delayed since they cannot make it to the airport on time or some people who do it as a prank and so-on.
Always remember, if caught, you can land up in jail for your entire life under the new Anti Hijacking Act. And it is effortless to trace it back to you. Before doing something like this, think of the consequences that may land on you, what your family will have to go through and other passengers, crew and personnel who will be troubled due to this.
Do you think this was adequate punishment for the crime committed?