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1981 Plane Hijacking Case: Bhai Satnam Singh Paunta Sahib and Tajinder Singh Acquitted

August 27, 2018 | By

New Delhi: A Delhi sessions court has acquitted two Sikhs in the 1981 Indian Airlines plan hijacking case today.

Thirty-seven years ago, five Sikhs had hijacked an Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members en route New Delhi to Srinagar to protest against the arrest of Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. All the passengers and crew were accorded safety by the Sikh activists who had taken the plane to Pakistan. 

A sessions court in Delhi’s Patiala House court acquitted Bhai Satnam Singh Paunta Sahib and Tajender Pal Singh from charges of “waging war against the Indian state”. The two had already served a life sentence in Pakistan for the act of plane hijacking.

Case File:

In 2017 an Indian court had ruled that Satnam Singh and Tajinder Singh would face a fresh trial for other offences than those they had been earlier convicted of and sentenced to. The magistrate and the police has ruled that the principle of double jeopardy does not apply as the offences for which they were tried and convicted in Pakistan and for which the present charge sheet is filed are different. But since hijacking is a one – piece act, a fresh case under different offences amounts to violation of principle of double jeopardy and Geneva Convention.

The Sikh hijackers on Sep 29, 1981 hijacked an Air India flight from New Delhi to Srinagar and forced it to land in Pakistan. They demanded release of Sikh preacher Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, release of Sikh prisoners and compensation to Sikh demonstrators killed in police firing on Sep 20 at Mehta Chowk. They were arrested by Pakistan police and were sentenced life terms by a court there.

Satnam Singh is a senior leader of Dal Khalsa. He belongs to Paonta Sahib but presently resides in Chandigarh. After serving his sentence in Pakistan in 1995 , he went to USA where he sought asylum. However, his request for asylum was denied and he was deported back to India in the year 1999.

The fifth Sikh hijacker is Tajinder Pal Singh, who after serving his sentence in Pakistan had gone to Canada and filed a petition for asylum. He tried the same for 4 years but was deported back in 1998 after the rejection of his petition for asylum.

Gajinder Singh tried to move to Germany but was refused entry in the country and deported back to the country from where he came. He is in exile while Karan Singh a resident of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Jasbir Singh Cheema, a resident of Khanna in Punjab are said to be in Switzerland since 1995. Both have got asylum in Switzerland.

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