‘Life sentence too harsh for hijack hoax’

Hours after a city court awarded life sentence to a 45-year-old chartered accountant, Jitender Kumar Mohla, for a 2009 hijack hoax, his mother, who is reportedly suffering from cancer, and neighbours maintained that he was innocent.

"He is innocent. My husband Ashok Kumar Mohla is in the court right now. So, I can make no further comments on this matter," Jitender's mother said at the family's house in Air Force Naval Officers' Enclave in Sector-7, Dwarka, in Southwest Delhi.

Jitender's lawyer, Sharad Kapoor said life sentence cannot be justified for behavioural misconduct and the issue had been blown out of proportion. "An appeal is inevitable in this case," Kapoor said.

According to Kapoor, Jitender had sparked panic inside an IndiGo flight in February 2009 by claiming that he had hijacked the plane. "It was a Goa to Delhi flight. There can be many reasons why my client behaved in this way. It could have been a culmination of many circumstances. But even though behavioural misconduct has its ramifications, he does not deserve life sentence," Kapoor said.

Kapoor said that the trial court has examined the matter but High Court will "weigh" all aspects. The court, according to him, has awarded the life sentence under the Safety of Aircraft Act.

"Jitender is bold and has complete faith in the judicial system. He will fight for his rights. You cannot give a rapist and one who makes a hoax call the same degree of punishment," Kapoor said.

Neighbours said Jitender had an "impeccable image" and claimed he was a "victim of political controversy".

"Ashok moved into this house 16 years ago and we have been close family friends since then. Jitender is a CA while Ashok retired as Air Commodore," one their next-door neighbours said.

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