Terrorists who hijacked Indian Airlines plane to Lahore in 1981, set free by Delhi court

Two pro-Khalistani terrorists of the banned secessionist organisation Dal Khalsa were set free by a court in Delhi yesterday. According to reports, the duo, named Tejinder Pal Singh and Satnam Singh were accused of hijacking an Indian Airlines flight to Lahore in 1981.

It is notable here that both the accused have served life imprisonment terms in Pakistan after they were convicted by Pakistani courts for the hijacking. Tejinder Pal Singh entered India in 1997 and Satnam Singh arrived in 1999 after being released from Pakistani prison. Upon reaching India the duo had reportedly filed discharge application in court under double jeopardy provisions pleading that they cannot be tried for the second time for the same crime with the same facts.

While Satnam Singh was discharged by the court under double jeopardy provisions, the other accused had filed a similar application the next year and the Delhi police sought prosecution on Tejinder and Satnam only after that. Tejinder Pal Singh was acquitted after the prosecution failed to prove charges of sedition against him. The Delhi police had filed cases of sedition and waging war against India on both of them after sanctioning of prosecution by the Delhi government. Addition sessions judge Ajay Pandey yesterday stated on his verdict that the prosecution has failed to prove charges against the duo.

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Judge Ajay Pandey also reportedly remarked that this was a unique case as the prosecution of charges against the accused was not initiated by the authorities in India but was launched only after the accused filed discharge applications. The prosecution had filed their case under section 121 (waging war against India), 121A, 124A (sedition) and 122B (collecting weapons with intentions of war). The cases were filed only after Satnam Singh’s discharge plea was approved by the court and Tejinder Singh filed a similar application.

Both Tejinder Singh and Satnam Singh were part of a five-member gang that had hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-423 from Delhi to Srinagar in September 1981 with crew members and 111 passengers on board. They were demanding the release of pro-Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Three of the accused, Gajinder Singh, Jasbir Singh and Karan Singh were declared absconders.

Judge Ajay Pandey, in his 79-page verdict, has reportedly stated that the accused person was not identified by any witnesses. Though the prosecution had submitted that the accused had admitted to hijacking the plane in their discharge application, the court dismissed the argument. The duo, who were in an Indian jail, were reportedly granted bail in July last year.

There has been growing concern in India over the pro-Khalistani elements being stirred up again. There has been a rise of radical Sikh violence in recent times and many reports suggest that the Aam Aadmi Party has been infiltrated by Khalistani elements. In December last year, a radical Sikh magazine was found glorifying terrorist Burhan Wani as a ‘hero’ in one of the local fairs in Fatehgarh Sahib.

Recently in London, pro-Khalistani groups had organised an event calling for the ‘Khalistan Referendum’. There were reports that it was being supported by Pakistan.

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