Early in February 2009, Bangalore Aviation had advocated a strong “zero tolerance” approach to drunk passengers in Indian skies, specifically citing the case of Jitendra Kumar Mohla, a Chartered Accountant, and son of a former Air Commodore of the Indian Air Force, who boarded an IndiGo flight 6E-334 from Goa to New Delhi, in a drunk condition.
Today, we are happy to report that District Judge IS Mehta threw the book at Mohla and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was convicted under Section 3(1) (D) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982, which deals with offences on board an aircraft. Mohla, however, was acquitted on the charges framed under the Anti Hijacking Act.
During the flight Mohla misbehaved with a stewardess and threatened the entire crew, saying that he was armed. He said he had two accomplices on the board and they would hijack the plane. He also said that he was official of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
According to the police, Mohla had allegedly entered the plane’s cockpit and sparked panic by claiming that he had hijacked the plane. The prosecution has claimed that Mohla had also warned the crew members that he was one of the accused in the infamous 1999 Kandahar hijacking (an Indian Airlines A300 IC 814, from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked) and was carrying needles with which he will “infect” others if they resisted him.
This judgement has sent a clear signal for airlines to act against mischief makers on-board their flights by separating intent from actions. The judge said
“Even if it is presumed that he (Mohla) had no such intention, it must be attributed that he knew he was on board an Indigo flight carrying 160 passengers and his terrifying act could endanger the safety of the passengers as well as the aircraft in flight”
One now hopes Indian carriers will take stringent action against perpetrators rather than practising an act of blanket denial. (Today, service of alcohol is prohibited on domestic flights due to past instances of passenger misbehaviour.)