New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday awarded life term to a chartered accountant who had created a mid-air hijack scare on a Goa-Delhi Indigo flight in 2009. The 45-year old chartered accountant Jitender Kumar Mohla had triggered the hijack alert in February 2009 on the flight when he threatened the crew and passengers mid-air by claiming that he had "infected" needles and gun.
The court had on October 25 convicted Mohla under section 3(1)(d)of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act of 1982 which deals with offences on board an aircraft and various IPC Section. District Judge IS Mehta, however, acquitted Mohla for the offence under the Anti Hijacking Act as nothing incriminating was found from his possession when he was arrested on February 2, 2009.
"Since, nothing was found in the possession of the accused at the time of his arrest and there is no evidence on record to show that the accused entered into the cockpit, the prosecution case under section 3 (2) and 4 under the Anti Hijacking Act 1992 fails," the judge said while convicting him on October 25.
According to the police, Mohla had allegedly entered into the cockpit on February 1, 2009 and had sparked panic by claiming that he has hijacked the plane while he was on the flight.
Mohla had also warned the crew members that he was one of the accused in the infamous Kandahar hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in 1999 and was carrying needles with which he would "infect" others if they resisted him, the prosecution had said.
The crew members and some passengers had overpowered Mohla and he was arrested on the next day. The court, in its order convicting Mohla, said he had intimidated the crew members by claiming to be a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official and had also threatened them by saying that he was one of the accused in the Kandahar hijacking.
"The intimidation to the crew by accused that he is a DGCA official and would make a report against the cabin crew members that the passengers are moving in the aircraft and he was involved in Kandahar highjacking and terrified crew members by showing a pen to be needle, shows that he had pre-requisite culpable intention," the court said. It also said that Mohla was aware that his "terrifying act" would have endangered the safety of the 160 passengers and the crew members on board.
"Even, if it is presumed that he (Mohla) has no such intention, it must be attributed that he is possessing such knowledge that he was on board in Indigo flight no. 6E334 carrying 160 passengers and his terrifying act against the cabin crew members would endanger the safety of the passengers as well as the aircraft in flight," the judge said.
During the trial, public prosecutor Vishnu Saran Aggarwal had said that Mohla had threatened the crew while on board by claiming that he was carrying a gun and some infected needles and had also said that some of the passengers had been made unconscious by him.
Mohla has been in judicial custody since his arrest on February 2, 2009 as his bail plea was earlier rejected by the sessions court and the Delhi High Court after which he had approached the Supreme Court which had also refused to entertain his plea.
The court, in its order, said that every person on board a flight should observed certain "standards of behaviour" as per the norms laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the DGCA as India is a signatory to Montreal Convention.
"Any breach of rule would result into the endangering the aircraft as well as the passengers on board. Therefore, what is required is zero tolerance on board," it said.
According to the police, Mohla's behaviour had forced the pilot of the Indigo flight to send a hijack alert, leading to a scare and panic at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in Delhi.
The plane made an emergency landing and was kept in isolation for two and a half hours after it was confirmed that the landing took place due to unruly behaviour of Mohla.
(With additional information from PTI)