13 Jun 2019

Fake plane hijacker hoped girlfriend would move in with him

12:54 pm on 13 June 2019

An Indian businessman has been jailed for life after planting a fake hijacking letter in the toilet of a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Mumbai.

Jet Airways aircraft are seen parked on the tarmac at Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai on March 25, 2019.

A Jet Airways plane. Photo: AFP

Birju Salla said he had hoped the air carrier would close its Delhi operations and his girlfriend - a Jet Airways air stewardess - would have to move to live with him in Mumbai.

He was also fined 50 million rupees ($NZ1.09 million).

Salla is the first person to be tried under India's new anti-hijacking laws.

The legislation carries a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, and a death sentence at its most severe.

The businessman confessed to writing and printing the threat note in his Mumbai office before catching the flight in October 2017.

It said 12 hijackers and several explosives were onboard, and demanded that the flight be diverted into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

Salla was arrested after the plane made an emergency landing in Ahmedabad, 778km from its intended destination.

At the time, he was having an extra-marital affair with an air stewardess from Delhi.

Salla had reportedly asked her to move to Mumbai but she refused, and by defaming the airline, he hoped she would lose her job and be forced to move in with him instead.

An investigator told news agency AFP that whilst Salla did not commit a hijacking, placing a threatening letter still qualifies as an attempted hijacking under Indian law.

From the fine, each of the aircraft's pilots will receive 100,000 rupees ($NZ2193) for the "misery undergone by them," the judge ruled.

Every air hostess will also receive 50,000 rupees ($NZ1096), and each passenger each passenger 25,000 rupees ($NZ548).

Salla's lawyer, Rohit Verma, said he would appeal against the decision.

Jet Airways, once India's second-largest airline, suspended all domestic and international flights earlier this year after running into financial difficulty.