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Delhi court begins sedition trial in 1981 Palam hijacking case

Additional chief metropolitan magistrate, Jyoti Kler granted two-day interim bail to alleged Sikh hijackers Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh. It also asked the investigating officer to be present in the court on July 20.

punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2017 22:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Palam hijacking case,1981 Palam hijacking case,Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh.
The accused had moved the Delhi high court in December 2012 through a writ petition seeking the quashing of the supplementary charge-sheet, but the court had refused to stay the fresh trial.(HT Photo)

Almost six years after the Delhi Police filed a supplementary charge-sheet of sedition against five men whom a Pakistani court had convicted of hijacking an Air India plane from Palam Airport in 1981, a court in Delhi started fresh trial in the case on Tuesday.

As the aircraft was taken to Pakistan, that country’s police had arrested the hijackers and a court had sentenced them to life term.

Additional chief metropolitan magistrate, Jyoti Kler granted two-day interim bail to alleged Sikh hijackers Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh. It also asked the investigating officer to be present in the court on July 20.

The accused had moved the Delhi high court in December 2012 through a writ petition seeking the quashing of the supplementary charge-sheet, but the court had refused to stay the fresh trial.

Gajinder Singh, Karan Singh Jasbir Singh Cheema, Satnam Singh and Tajinder Pal Singh hijacked hijacked an Air India flight IC-423 from New Delhi to Srinagar in September 1981 and forced it to land in Pakistan. All five are connected to a radicals’ body Dal Khalsa and Gajinder Singh who remained its president for many years was made its patron last year.

They had demanded release of hardliner Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, release of Sikh prisoners and compensation to Sikh demonstrators killed in police firing on September 20, 1981, at Mehta Chowk.

Satnam Singh, belonged to Paonta Sahib, and after serving his sentence in Pakistan in 1995 went to the US where he sought asylum. He was, however, deported to India in 1999.

The fifth accused Tajinder Pal Singh had gone to Canada after serving his sentence in Pakistan. He was deported to India in 1998.

Gajinder Singh tried to move to Germany, but was refused entry in the country and deported back to Pakistan and is in exile. Karan Singh from Srinagar and Jasbir Singh Cheema from Khanna are said to be in Switzerland since 1995. Both have got asylum in Switzerland.

Lawyers claim double jeopardy

Lawyers who appeared on the behalf of the accused argued that the petitioners had spent 35 years of their life in litigation and had served one life sentence in Pakistan.

“The instance is an example of double jeopardy, their entire life will go facing trial after trial for one set of circumstance, there should be end to their agony,” the defense lawyers told court.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said, “This is travesty of justice. The Indian government has put the hijackers on trial, after 36 years of the incident, for sedition, ignoring their life imprisonment in Pakistan for the same offence.”

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 22:46 IST