An Indian businessman who allegedly staged a stupid plane hijacking hoax to get his wife fired by the airline so they could spend more time together was recently sentenced to life in prison.
Birju Salla, the 38-year-old scion of a wealthy family of jewellers based in Mumbai, became the first person to be sentenced under India's strict Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016. The funny thing is that he never actually intended to hijack a plane, all he wanted was to get his beloved fire so they could spend more time together. He told the court that by printing a hijacking threat and planting it in the toilet of a Jet Airways plane, the airline would close its Delhi operation and fire his younger wife, so she would be forced to return to Mumbai where they could be together more. Things didn't work out quite as planned.
Birju Salla's troubles began when, during his frequent flights from Mumbai to Delhi, he fell in love with a Jet Airways customer care executive. They began having an affair in 2017, but the businessman quickly became frustrated with how little time they spent together. He felt that her job was always getting in the way of their love, so in July of 2017 he secretly married her - although he was already married and had two children - and asked her to move to Mumbai with him. She refused, and that's when he allegedly hatched a ridiculously stupid plan to get her fired.
Prosecutors told the court that in October of 2017, Salla printed a hijacking threat on an A4 sheet of paper and planted it in the toilet of a Jet Airways airplane flying from Mumbai to Delhi. Upon discovering the message, flight crew contacted the pilots, who made an emergency landing in Ahmedabad, fearing for the passengers' safety. Upon analyzing the threatening message, police quickly realized something was off. It was written in Urdu, but didn't make a lot of sense.
"Flight No 9W339 is covered by hijackers and aircraft should not be land and flown straight to POK [Muzaffarabad airport in Pakistan], 12 people onboard. If you put landing gear, you will hear the noise of people dying. Don't take it as a joke. Cargo area contains explosives land Delhi. Allah is great," the note read.
Court records show that during the investigation, police checked Birju Salla's office and found that the ink with which the note had been printed matched the ink of his office printer, his laptop revealed that hijack threat was printed on his office printer, and his internet browser cache files showed that he had used Google Translate to translate the English version of the note into Urdu to make it look like it had been the work of Muslims.
To make matters worse, Salla's office CCTV cameras showed him handling the printed note with gloves to not leave any fingerprints. After boarding the Jet Airways flight in October 2017, he entered the toilet and conveniently placed the hijacking note on a tissue box, where it was discovered by a flight crew member.
Authorities tracked the note to Salla in a matter of days, and he reportedly admitted to the crime after being confronted with the overwhelming evidence. He has been in jail awaiting sentencing since October 2017. His waiting recently came to an end, when a judge sentenced him to life in prison. Believe it or not, that was the most positive outcome, according to India's Anti-Hijacking Act of 2016, which allows for only two punishments for hijacking or threats to hijack: life imprisonment or a death sentence.
"He has been in jail since October 2017 so I suppose he is getting used to it by now, he knew it was going to happen," Salla's lawyer, Rohit Verma told the press. "If only he hadn't done something so stupid."
Apparently, Birju Salla's second wife, who was reportedly fired by Jet Airways shortly after the 2017 incident was devastated by the news that her husband would be spending the rest of her life behind bars, and her family called the decision a great injustice.
"Rapists go scot-free in this country, terrorism is on the rise and here an innocent man has been convicted of an alleged hoax, based on the statement of cabin crew that had an axe to grind," the woman's sister said. "An injustice has been done. He didn't put a gun to someone's head."