An Indian businessman was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for a fake hijack threat on a domestic flight in 2017 that resulted in an emergency landing.
Birju Kishor Salla, a resident of Mumbai, was arrested and charged for posing a threat to the safety of passengers and crew on board a plane. He was also fined 50 million rupees ($720,000), which a special court ruled would be given as compensation to the crew and passengers.
The 2017 incident, on a flight from Mumbai to New Delhi, resulted in the grounding of the plane belonging to the now-defunct Jet Airways airline.
Each pilot will get compensation of 100,000 rupees out of the fine amount, while each member of the cabin crew will receive 50,000 rupees, and each passenger will be paid 25,000 rupees for the “misery” the incident caused, according to a statement released by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Salla’s case was the first one registered under India’s new anti-hijacking act passed in 2016. The latest law has tightened previous legislation and expands the scope of the expression ‘hijacking’ to include threats.
The NIA stated in court that a female flight attendant “found a threat note in the washroom of the business class of the plane which stated that, ‘There are hijackers on board and explosives on the plane.’”
The plane immediately called for an emergency landing.
Initially picked up on suspicious grounds, investigators were able to trace the note to Salla and charged him last year for attempting to seize control of an aircraft and for making threats.
It was later established that accused Salla intentionally committed the offense of disrupting the operation of aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the passengers and crew members on board, the NIA said.
The new law also adds the death penalty along with stronger sentences for not just a hijacking but for an attempt or threat to do so.
An Indian flight was last hijacked in 1999 when a plane flying from Nepal was re-routed to Afghanistan by five terrorists. The Indian government released three militants in exchange for more than 190 passengers and crew members.