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Delhi hijack drama: A prank gone too far

On a day the man who created an in-flight ruckus was arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody,Assistant Commissioner of Police Ujjwal Mishra called Sunday’s incident a “prank”.

But man held with charge that fetches life in jail

On a day the man who created an in-flight ruckus was arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody,Assistant Commissioner of Police Ujjwal Mishra called Sunday’s incident a “prank”.

“It looks like a prank that went too far,” Mishra said about Jitender Kumar Mohalla’s act that sent security forces into a tizzy at the IGI Airport.

It looked like nothing unusual when the police invoked Section 336 (acts endangering life and personal safety) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) against him. Seven years in jail is the maximum punishment under these two sections of the Indian Penal Code.

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But the police went a step ahead and,perhaps for the first time in the national capital,also booked him under Section 3(1)(d) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts in the Safety of Civil Aviation Act,1982. The stringent Act invites a maximum imprisonment for life if one is found guilty of unlawfully and intentionally communicating information that he/she knows to be false,so as to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight.

The Act makes the offence non-bailable,and the offender is also liable to be fined.

Not only are provisions of this Act sparingly used by the police,arresting a man under it is probably unprecedented as far as creating scare at a Delhi airport is concerned.

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The provisions are used mostly in case of hijackers and terrorists for endangering passengers’ lives. It was translated into an Act on the basis of an international convention at Montreal in September 1971.

An instance displaying the gravity of the Act came in 1999 when four senior Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) of Mumbai Airport,all of them union leaders,were arrested and booked under the Aviation Act for leading an 18-day ATC strike that crippled airports across the country.

After a protracted eight-year trial,and a refusal by Supreme Court to discharge them,the Maharashtra government had to finally write to the prosecution department to withdraw the case against the four for bailing them out.

First published on: 03-02-2009 at 10:44:45 am
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