India gives man life term for 2009 hijack hoax

NIRMALA GEORGE Associated Press Published:

NEW DELHI (AP) -- An Indian court has sentenced a man to life in prison for a 2009 hijack scare in a passenger plane, saying it was adopting a "zero tolerance" approach to prevent future incidents that could endanger the lives of other passengers.

A New Delhi court on Tuesday ordered Jitender Kumar Mohla, 45, imprisoned for life for threatening the pilot and crew of an IndiGo Airlines plane in February 2009 by saying he was armed with a gun and infected needles.

Mohla plans to appeal the sentence, a relative said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not wish to be identified due to the sensitivity of the case.

Mohla was convicted last week on charges of endangering the safety of others and intimidating the pilot and crew while the aircraft, which was headed from western Goa state to Delhi, was mid-air with around 160 passengers on board.

The threat created panic among the passengers and prompted the pilot to send a hijack alert.

The plane made an emergency landing at New Delhi's airport, where it was kept in isolation for two hours until security personnel confirmed that Mohla was unarmed. It remains unclear why he made the threats.

Mohla was arrested a day after the incident and has been in jail since then. He has made several bail attempts, but his applications have been turned down by the courts.

District Judge I.S. Mehta also ordered Mohla to pay a fine of 7,000 rupees ($130).

After the sentencing, the court said in a statement that it was adopting a "zero tolerance" approach toward offenses that could endanger the lives of other passengers and was in keeping with India's commitment to international agreements on safety in civil aviation, according to the Hindu newspaper.