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1981 plane hijack – Two Sikhs knock at doors of Delhi High court against double jeopardy

December 4, 2012 | By

New Delhi/Ludhiana, India/Punjab (December 04, 2012): It is learnt that Bhai Satnam Singh Paunta Sahib and Tejinderpal Singh who were sent back to India in 2000 after serving a life term in Pakistan for hijacking an Air India plane to Pakistan in 1981, have moved the Delhi High Court for quashing a fresh trial against them in India for the same act.

Bhai Satnam Singh Paunta Sahib

Duo are residing in Punjab for last twelve years. They have also applied for quashing of the trial court’s order to begin the process to declare them as “proclaimed offenders” (PO) in the case.

According to Indian Express (IE): “[i]ssuing notice to the city police on the plea of Jalandhar resident Tejinder Singh and Chandigarh resident Satnam Singh, Justice Manmohan sought its response by April 8, 2013”.

It is notable that a Delhi court has initiated the proceedings against five Sikhs who were involved in 1981 plain hijack. Other three Sikhs namely Bhai Gajender Singh, Karan Singh Kini and Jasbir Singh, against whom the fresh proceedings have been initiated by the Indian court are reportedly not in India.

It is notable that the case against the five Sikhs dates back to September 29, 1981 when an Air India plane was hijacked from New Delhi to Srinagar en route Amritsar and it was forced to land in Pakistan. On arrival at Pakistan the Sikhs were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

According to reports after their deportation to India in 2000, Bhai Satnam Singh and Tejinderpal Singh had sought their discharge from the case registered here but a sessions court had dismissed their plea and had asked police to file charge sheet against them.

The two said in their plea to the high court that “the criminal proceeding against them is arbitrary, perverse and is totally unjustified apart from being contrary to the law and fact”.

“On the basis of fresh charge sheet, the court passed the order completely casual and perfunctory manner without due application of judicious mind,” they said.

It is notable that on October 15, 2012 a magisterial court had ordered initiation of proceedings under section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr PC) to declare the five as proclaimed offender as the non-bailable warrants issued against them after filing of the charge sheet could not be executed at the addresses recorded in the police file.

The non-bailable warrants against them were issued by the court in August 2012 in pursuance of the sessions court order which had earlier asked for their fresh trial here in the same hijacking case of 1981, but for different offences arising out of it.

The warrants were issued after the court had taken cognisance of the Delhi police charge sheet, which was filed against the accused in October 2011.

The Delhi Police has filed charges under sections 121 (waging war against Government of India), 121A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the state), 124A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code against the five.

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