Posted On Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 09:14:17 AM
A chartered accountant was on Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment by a court for creating a mid-air hijack scare in February 2009. Jitender Kumar Mohla had falsely claimed on a Goa-Delhi IndiGo flight that he was carrying infected needles and a gun.
The 45-year-old allegedly also warned crew members that he was one of the accused in the 1999 Kandahar hijacking.
Though he was overpowered by the crew and no gun or needles were recovered from him, his shocking behaviour forced the pilot to send a hijack alert and make an emergency landing at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport.
Mohla was subsequently arrested and charged under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and aviation safety laws for making the false hijacking claims. The court convicted him on October 25.
“The accused is awarded life imprisonment under Section 3(1)(d) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation,” District Judge I S Mehta said during Tuesday’s sentencing. Mohla was also fined Rs 70,000.
The judge said that aviation safety laws had been passed by Parliament to give effect to the Montreal Convention and better teeth to curb offences on board. “The plain language of Section [3(1)(d)] shows that the convict is to be awarded life imprisonment and is also liable to fine,” he said.
The court — which had also convicted him for endangering human life, criminal intimidation and impersonating a public servant — gave him varying jail terms, which were set off against the time he has spent behind bars since his arrest.
According to the police, on February 1, 2009, Mohla entered the cockpit of Goa-Delhi flight 6E334, claiming that he had hijacked the plane that had 160 passengers on board. He warned the crew that he was carrying needles with which he would infect others if they resisted his attempts.
At some point during the flight, he Mohla had also falsely claimed to be an official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. His fake hijack threats led to the emergency landing of the flight and created a scare at the Delhi airport, the prosecution said. The aircraft, in fact, was kept in isolation for two and a half hours.
During the trial, Mohla’s counsel argued that he had been falsely implicated. The flight crew, he said, made up the hijack story after Mohla, pretending to be a DGCA official, ticked off the airhostesses for letting passengers walk around while the seatbelt sign was on.
In its judgment, the court observed that even if it was presumed that Mohla had no intention of hijacking the plane, he was aware that his “terrifying act” would endanger the safety of 160 passengers.
It said that every person on a flight should observe certain “standards of behaviour”. Though the 45-year-old was convicted under aviation safety laws and the IPC, he was acquitted of charges filed under the Anti-Hijacking Act as nothing incriminating was recovered from him at the time of his arrest.