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The Supreme Court today agreed to hear two appeals challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict convicting co-conspirator Abdul Latif Adam Momin and acquitting another accused in the sensational 1999 Kandahar hijacking case. While Momin has appealed against his conviction and award of life imprisonment in the case, Punjab government through the CBI has challenged the acquittal of Bhupal Man Damai alias Yusuf Nepali by the High Court. A bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman granted the leave and admitted the appeal for regular hearing, saying "we would hear the matter". Momin in his appeal has contened that the prosecution has failed to produce evidences which could suggest that he has abated the hi-jacking. In his plea, he has said that he has been in custody for 17 years and has never been on parole since his arrest on December 30, 1999. He has also contended that his confessional statements were not considered by the court. The Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to New Delhi, with 179 passengers and 11 crew members on board, was hijacked on December 24, 1999, and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan by five hijackers, who are still absconding. The hijackers had executed one passenger, Rupin Katyal, and finally negotiated the release of terrorists Masood Azhar Alvi, Syed Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar from Indian jails on December 31, 1999, in exchange for the hostages. In 2014, the apex court had issued notice on the pleas of Momin and Punjab government against the High Court verdict.
On February 25 that year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed CBI's petition seeking death penalty for Momin. The High Court while upholding life sentence for Momin, had acquitted two other convicts, Yusuf Nepali and Dilip Kumar Bhujel, of murder charges and conspiracy of hijacking the aircraft, after finding them guilty only under the Arms Act. Momin, a Mumbai resident, was allegedly found to have links with Pakistan-based militant outfit Harkat-ul- Mujahideen. Bhujel is also an Indian while Nepali hails from Nepal. In its verdict, the court had observed that though the offences are serious, impinging upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, but keeping in view the fact that the appellant (Momin) was in custody since December 30, 1999, it did not find that any case is made out for enhancement of sentence to death as demanded by CBI. Momin, along with co-accused Nepali and Bhujel, were awarded life sentence by a Special Anti-Hijacking Court, Patiala, on February 5, 2008. The High Court had partially allowed the appeals filed by Nepali and Bhujel against the judgment of special court. It had set aside their conviction for the offences punishable under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 363 (kidnapping), 342 (wrongful confinement), 467 (forgery), 506 (criminal intimidation) with Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as under Section 4 of the Anti Hijacking Act, 1982. However, the court had upheld the duo's conviction and sentence for charges under Section 25 of the Arms Act.
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