Two Sikh hijackers acquitted after 37 years

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NEW DELHI: Thirty-seven years after an Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members on board was hijacked to Lahore on its way from New Delhi to Srinagar, a Delhi sessions court on Monday (27th August) acquitted both the accused.
Two of the five Sikh hijackers have been tried on charges of waging war against the State in connection with the case. They had already served life term in Pakistan for hijacking the plane.
Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey acquitted accused Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh. Satnam, who was 30, at the time of the offence, has turned 67 while Tejinderpal is a year younger.
In 1981, a New Delhi-to-Srinagar Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members on board was hijacked by five Sikh extremists and taken to Lahore. Then under Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship, Pakistan had launched a special force operation to drive the hijackers out. The hijackers – advocates of a separate Sikh homeland – were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan. Two of the five hijackers, who had moved to Canada and the US after serving life sentence, were deported back in the late 1990s. They have been tried on charges of waging war against the state.
Faced with possibilities of ‘double jeopardy’ in the hijacking case, the two have reportedly received help from Punjab’s Legal Aid Team on directions of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The Delhi Police had filed a chargesheet in the case in 2011. The prosecution has argued that the offences for which they were convicted in Pakistan were different from the ones mentioned in the chargesheet.