Hijack hoax lands India business class flyer in jail for life

Birju Kishor Salla was found guilty of intentionally disrupting the operations of an aircraft while on board a Jet Airways flight.
Birju Kishor Salla was found guilty of intentionally disrupting the operations of an aircraft while on board a Jet Airways flight.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - An Indian court sentenced a business class passenger to life in jail after he was found guilty of placing a hijacking note in the washroom of a flight, the first such ruling under a new law.

Birju Kishor Salla, 38, was also fined 50 million rupees (S$983,000), which will be distributed among pilots, crew and passengers, a special court of the National Investigation Agency said in a judgment on Tuesday (June 11).

The passenger, who was flying on a Jet Airways flight to New Delhi from Mumbai in 2017, was found guilty of intentionally disrupting the operations of an aircraft while on board.

"Flight No. 9W 339 is covered by hijackers and aircraft should not be land and flown straight to POK," Salla wrote in a note placed in a tissue paper box, according to court filings.

POK refers to the part of the disputed state of Kashmir administrated by Pakistan. Salla further vowed to start killing people if the aircraft's landing gear was deployed, according to the court documents.

A platinum member of Jet Airways's loyalty programme and a jeweller by profession, Salla may have wanted to ground the airline to woo a stewardess, whom he hoped would approach him for a job, the Times of India newspaper reported without saying where it got the information.

The flight's pilots will get over $1,400 each from the fine, while every passenger on board will pocket $360, according to the verdict. Crew members will get $720.

 
 

India in 2016 amended rules, making the death penalty compulsory if a hijack attempt results in the death of a hostage or security personnel.

In Salla's case, the pilot managed to land in the western airport of Ahmedabad and no passenger or crew was harmed.