Centre told to ensure justice to 1986 PanAm hijack victims

The Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh has asked the Government of India to take up the issue of “discrimination” by the US government against Indian victims of 1986 Pan Am 73 hijack case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul passed the order on a PIL filed by Chandigarh resident Aneesh Bhanot through his counsel Ranjan Lakhanpal. Bhanot’s sister, Neerja Bhanot, a Chief Purser with Pan Am Airlines, was gunned down by the terrorists who entered the aircraft posing as Pakistani police personnel carrying arms and hand grenades.

Neerja, the country’s first woman Ashok Chakra winner, was killed when she tried to save three US children from the bullets of the terrorists. It was prayed that Indian citizens who suffered in the attack should not be discriminated against and paid compensation on a par with American citizens.

Ranjan Lakhanpal told the Court that even though the US government had been paid $1.5 billion by the Government of Libya to compensate the victims of the hijacking, the US authorities discriminated against Indians killed and injured in the attack and decided that the money would be paid only to US citizens.

As many as 13 Indians were killed and around 120 Indian passengers were injured in the attack. Lakhanpal maintained that the issue of discrimination was taken up with the US government a number of times but no positive response was received. He alleged that even the Indian government has adopted an evasive stand on the issue. After hearing the counsel, the Bench said that the petition could not be termed a PIL.

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