Man Who Planted False Hijacking Threat Sentenced to Life in Prison

Jun 15, 2019

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This story first appeared on our content partner Live from a Lounge, an aviation-focused blog based in India. The story appears on our site at it appeared on Live from a Lounge. Here is a link to the original post: Man who planted the Hijack Hoax about Jet Airways flight gets life imprisonment.

In 2017, a Jet Airways business class passenger, Birju Salla, planned an elaborate hoax on board Flight 339 from Mumbai to Delhi. He threatened to blow up the plane if they flew to their final destination. As it turned out, the passenger was a habitual offender.

Salla printed a hijack threat in both English and Urdu and brought it along with him on the flight. After takeoff, he went to the business-class lavatory and placed his note with the paper towels.

False hijack threat note left by Birju Salla on flight 9W 339 on October 30, 2017

When a crew member noticed the hijack threat, they informed the captain and the plane was diverted to Ahmedabad, India.

Law enforcement agencies took charge of the aircraft and found out that the threat was a hoax. There was an interrogation of the crew and the passengers, and since Salla was the only passenger to have used that particular washroom, he was the prime suspect.

He confessed to the crime and told investigators that he had done it in the hope that it would force Jet Airways to close its Delhi operation, go bankrupt, and that his girlfriend, who worked in the airline’s Delhi office, would then come to Mumbai.

The Indian Government had recently introduced the Anti Hijacking Act 2016, which replaced an old law from 1982. The Anti Hijacking Act is a stringent act, as it should be. You can read the entire law here if you want. The government also added a no-fly list for unruly passengers after this incident. Salla is the first one to be convicted under the Anti Hijacking Act as well as the first person on the no-fly list.

A specialized court of India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) sentenced Salla to life imprisonment on June 11, 2019. The court has also fined him INR 5 crores ($720,000 USD).

A statement from Birju Salla’s lawyer, Rohit Verma said:

“I am yet to read the full judgment. Of course we will go in appeal against the verdict. But you must understand that there are only two kinds of punishment under the new anti-hijacking law — life imprisonment until death, or a death sentence. If a hostage is killed, the punishment is death. In lesser circumstances the sentence is life. So the judge had only these two options. Also, there is a provision of fine, and of confiscating movable and immovable properties. Salla’s assets, which he had on his person, like his cellphone, credit cards and Rs 4 lakh in cash [approximately $5,700], were confiscated. The judge has not said anything about his immovable assets.”

There are several cases where someone places a false hijack call to get a flight delayed when they cannot make it to the airport on time, and some people do it as a prank.

Always remember: If caught, you could land in jail for your entire life under the new Anti Hijacking Act. And, it is effortless to trace a threat back to someone. Before doing something like this, think of the consequences that may land on you, and what your family, other passengers, and crew will have to go through.

Featured photo courtesy of Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

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