On December 24, 1999, five men hijacked Indian Airlines’ IC814 from Kathmandu. India couldn’t arrest either the hijackers or the men behind the conspiracy. Investigating agencies, however, succeeded in arresting three men who provided infrastructure support to the quintet. Unfortunately, their trial dragged on.
When the case comes up for hearing at the Patiala Central Jail on August 10, it will be more than six years. This when the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered that the trial be completed at the earliest. It had ordered that a minimum of six hearings be scheduled every month.
The Central Bureau of Investigation on its part believes that the case against the three — Abdul Latif, Yusuf Nepali and Dilip Kumar Bhujel — was watertight. Six years on, the case is heading nowhere. As many as five magistrates have looked at the case, now being heard by the sixth.
Of these, two have retired, two have been elevated to High Court while one has been transferred. Let alone six, barely one hearing takes place every month. The judge has to go all the way to the jail, in the outskirts of the city.
Compare this to other terror trials like the Parliament House and Red Fort attacks that wound up in four years. According to sources, the trial would take another couple of years to end if the hearings proceed at a snail’s pace.
“It is a case of justice being delayed for the 178 passengers of the hijacked plane — one of whom Rupin Katyal was murdered, while another Satnam Singh was stabbed. The rest of them were harassed during the weeklong captivity,” said a senior official.
The prosecution — the CBI — examined 120 witnesses. and it took five years to do so. The CBI was initially supposed to examine 325 witnesses, but decided against it to speed up the trial. At present, the court is recording the statements of the three accused under Section 313 of the CrPC after which defence counsel Majid Memon will get an opportunity to defend his clients, followed by cross-examination and arguments.