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New Delhi, April 2 
The Centre has decided to reopen the cases against the three militants, including Harkat-ul-Ansar chief Masood Azhar, who were released through a hurriedly obtained court order and handed over to the airbus hijackers at Kandahar on December 31 last year.

The government is aware that reopening the cases would help it obtain only a notional conviction against the militants because all three are in Pakistan. However, government sources said the due process of law could not be neglected and court proceedings against the militants would resume shortly either in the concerned court in Jammu and Kashmir or in a higher court.

The sources said the government would, nevertheless, try every possible means to bring the hijackers to book. For this, they will seek extradition of all the three militants. In the case of the British national militant, India will lodge a request with the United Kingdom authorities as there is an extradition arrangement between both countries. However, the British national is reported to be in Pakistan and there is little that the British government can do to meet the Indian demand.

“No stone will be left unturned,” said a senior government official. He said India would fall back on the Saarc Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, 1987 to bring over the three released militants. The convention allows the Saarc countries to hand over wanted criminals. Till now it has hardly been put to use. Another of the released militant, Mohammed Ali Zargar, is a Kashmiri. India, according to sources, has every right to seek his arrest and return.

As for the five hijackers, India wants to refer to several international conventions that lays down stringent provisions against hijacking. These are the Tokyo Anti-hijacking Convention, 1963, The Hague Anti-Hijacking Convention, 1970 and the Montreal Anti-Hijacking Convention, 1971. Each of these conventions allows the Indian government to plead strongly for due punishment of the hijackers.

Even in absentia, the hijackers, whose crime is already under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, can be tried in Indian courts under Indian anti-hijacking laws. The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, provides for stringent action against hijackers.

In effect, India does not want to let the hijacking issue to die a quiet death. It will continue using international fora to exp