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Posted at: Apr 21, 2017, 6:40 PM; last updated: Apr 21, 2017, 6:41 PM (IST)

SC admits Kandahar hijack convict's appeal against life sentence

SC admits Kandahar hijack convict's appeal against life sentence
Taliban fighters walk past the hijacked Indian Airlines plane at Kandahar airport in this December 27, 1999, file photo Reuters
Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 21 

The Supreme Court on Friday admitted for hearing an appeal filed by Abdul Latif Adam Momin, a convict in the sensational hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 to Kandahar in December 1999, against the life imprisonment awarded to him in the case. 

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A Bench headed by Justice PC Ghose admitted Momin’s appeal after his counsel contended that there were flaws in the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s verdict upholding his conviction and life sentence given by a Special Court in Patiala. 

Indian Airlines flight IC-814 was hijacked on December 24, 1999, on its way from Kathmandu to Delhi with 179 passengers, including 24 foreigners and 11 crew members, after it took off from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu at 4.10 pm. 

It was diverted to Amritsar and then taken to Kandahar by the hijackers who stabbed to death a passenger, Rupin Katyal and injured another passenger Satnam Singh.

The Indian Government was forced to release Maulana Masood Azhar, Umar Sheikh and Mohammed Zargar to secure the release of the passengers and the aircraft. An FIR was registered on December 29, 1999, at Amritsar regarding the hijacking. 

The high court had in February 2014 upheld the life imprisonment awarded to Momin but rejected the CBI’s plea to send him to the gallows. 

Momin was held to be one of the conspirators in the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 to Kandahar.  

However, the high court turned down the CBI’s demand for capital punishment on the ground that he had been in jail for quite a long period. 

“Though offences are serious, impinging upon sovereignty and integrity of India, keeping in view the fact that the accused is in custody since December 30, 1999, we do not find that any case is made out for enhancement of sentence to death,” the high court had said.

Upholding the special CBI court’s verdict, the high court had said there was sufficient evidence to show Momin’s active participation in the criminal conspiracy with all other accused for hijacking IC-814 to secure the release of terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar.

The high court had, however, absolved two other accused—Bhupal Man Damai alias Yusuf Nepali and Dilip Kumar Bhujel—of murder other offences including that under anti-hijacking Act holding that the CBI failed to prove their “active participation” in the conspiracy. 

The high court, however, held them guilty under Section 25 of the Arms Act.

The CBI had named 10 individuals for the conspiracy. While Abdul Latif and Bhujel are Indians, Yusuf Nepali was from Nepal. All other accused were Pakistanis who had to be declared proclaimed offenders.

Abdul Latif and Yusuf Nepali were arrested in Mumbai on December 30, 1999, during probe of a bank dacoity case. 

The trial court had on February 5, 2008, convicted Momin, Bhupal Man Damai alias Yusuf Nepali and Dilip Kumar Bhujel sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

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