As National Investigation Agency (NIA) is getting information from the recently nabbed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Indian Mujahideen terrorists, the Punjab and Haryana high court has decided to conduct a day-to-day hearing on the CBI's petition whether Abdul Latif Adam Momin, convict in the December 1999, IC-814 Indian Airlines flight hijack case, deserved death.
The CBI had filed the petition in 2008 seeking enhancement of life sentence awarded to Momin, a Mumbai resident, by the Patiala anti-hijacking court on February 5, 2008, to death sentence. Momin is linked with Pakistan-based militant outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The case will be heard on daily basis from Monday.
The flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi with 179 passengers on board and 11 crew members was hijacked on December 24, 1999, and was later taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan by five hijackers (still absconding).
Behind the bars for the last 13 years, Momin, along with other two co-accused, Yusuf Nepali and Dalip Bhujail, were awarded life sentence by the Patiala court for helping out hijackers by facilitating them with passports, accommodation, arms and ammunition.
Claiming that the case falls in the "rarest of rare" category, the CBI has challenged the trial court's judgment submitting that Momin should have been awarded "well-deserved death sentence" instead of life imprisonment that was inadequate for such a heinous crime against the nation. The CBI has equated the case with that of the terrorist attack on Parliament in 2001, for which main accused Afzal Guru was hanged.
The CBI has contended that it was because of Momin that India had to bend in front of terrorists that resulted in release of Maulana Masood Azhar who later masterminded the Parliament attack.
Last year, Momin had also petitioned the high court, seeking suspension of his life sentence and the petition would also be heard with the CBI's plea.
Five Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists, namely Ibrahim Athar Alvi (brother of Maulana Masood Azhar, terrorist outfit Jash-e-Mohammed head), Shahid Saeed Akhtar, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Zahoor Ibrahim Mistri and Farooq Abdul Aziz Siddiqui, had succeeded in hijacking the aircraft from Kathmandu to Kandahar. They had negotiated with the Indian government and finally got released three dreaded terrorists, Maulana Masood Azhar, Syed Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, from Indian jails for releasing hostages.
8-day hijack ordeal
After taking off from Kathmandu airport enroute Delhi on December 24, 1999, the aircraft was hijacked and was made to touch down in Amritsar, again flown to Lahore for refuelling and then to Dubai and finally landed in Kandahar.
The hijackers had released 27 passengers at Dubai airport, including the executed Rupin Katyal and other wounded passengers. Finally the remaining hostages, including 20 foreign nationals, were released after eight days on December 31, at Kandahar, and were flown back to India in a special plane. Rupin Katyal, married two months before, was brutally injured by inflicting 27 injuries with knife on his neck in front of all passengers and was finally executed by hijackers.