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Gujarat: Verdict on Birju Salla's appeal

The Gujarat high court on Friday completed hearing and reserved its verdict on an appeal filed by Birju Salla

Gujarat: Verdict on Birju Sallas appeal

The Gujarat high court on Friday completed hearing and reserved its verdict on an appeal filed by Birju Salla, the Mumbai-based businessman who has been awarded life imprisonment under the new anti-hijacking act for planting a threat note in a Mumbai-Delhi flight leading to its grounding at the city airport on October 30, 2017.

While the HC is to decide on his challenge to the guilt recorded by the special NIA court, Salla's hope hinges on a mistake admittedly committed by the investigators.

They had sought details from the Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) on data retrieved from his laptop for October 28, 2017 instead of asking for data of October 27, 2017 when he allegedly drafted the threat note on his laptop in his office in Mumbai.

After hearing lengthy arguments on this case, the bench of Justice J B Pardiwala

and Justice V D Nanavati repeatedly asked Salla's advocates and the Centre on why no data could be retrieved from the laptop for the day Salla allegedly prepared the note in English and translated in Urdu and later planted it in flight's lavatory.

The court had said that this is a vital link connecting the alleged offence to the accused.

Salla's lawyers raised a defence that the fragments recovered from the laptop was due to the police making him type a similar note as part of recreation of the offence, and there is no evidence that the note was typed on October 27.

Moreover, there was no details about any activity on the laptop for October 28, for which the details were requested from FSL. They relied on the difference between the original threat note and the retrieved data, which show spaces in words and letters missing in the original note.

Assistant solicitor general Devang Vyas submitted that it was a mistake on part of the investigator concerned that he requested the FSL for details on data retrieval for October 28 instead of October 27.

However, he argued that the evidence is adequate that Salla had prepared the note on his laptop and this includes CCTV footage for the day.

Initially, Gujarat police claimed that Salla's hoax call was meant to influence his girlfriend, who lived in Delhi and was employed with Jet Airways.

It was aimed at impacting the airline's prospects so that the girlfriend, whom he reportedly secretly married in 2017, would return to him in Mumbai. However, there was no discussion during the trial on part of the NIA about the motive behind Salla's gesture.

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