Tribune News Service
Patiala, February 5
The orders were pronounced by the special anti-hijacking case judge Inderjit Singh Walia, who is also the District and Sessions Judge, in the local Central Jail where the high-profile case was being heard for the past seven years.
The case was being heard in the Central Jail owing to security considerations.
On December 24, an Indian Airlines Airbus (IC-814), carrying 180 persons, including the crew, was hijacked to the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar.
The case, which was handed over to the CBI, was being heard in the Central jail since March 2000, and more than 120 witnesses were examined in the case, which for the past nearly seven years, was heard in camera.
The defense counsels — Barjinder Singh Sodhi and H. V. Rai — had alleged that the case was based purely on “circumstantial evidence” and on just the “confessions” of the accused. On the other hand, the CBI counsel had demanded death penalty for the three accused.
Abdul Latif, Dalip Singh Bhujel and Yusuf Nepali had gone underground in Mumbai after the hijacking.
However, the CBI arrested all three of them from a hideout in Mumbai in December 1999, just days after the hijacking. The three had been accused of helping their Paksitani co-conspirators to acquire fake passports. They were also accused of helping the hijackers smuggle weapons into the plane.
The hijacked plane was also forced to land at the Rajasansi airport, Amritsar, from where it was finally taken to Kandahar.
The hijackers had forced the Indian government to let off the chief of the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit Maulana Azhar Masood and two of his colleagues — Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Shiekh — in lieu of the passengers. After nearly seven days, the then foreign minister Jaswant Singh flew to Kandahar with the three terrorists to secure the release of the passengers.
One passenger Rupin Kaityal was shot dead by the hijackers, while the others returned to New Delhi after their release was effected.