A man who hijacked a plane to Pakistan 24 years ago and has been fighting an order to deport him from Canada for 12 years, is a recent University of Windsor law school graduate.
Parminder Singh Saini, 44, graduated from U of W in June 2006 with a law degree. He is articling at a law firm outside Toronto, a news report said. His lawyer, Lorne Waldman, did not return several phone calls for comment.
“As far as I know he’s still up for removal,” said Anna Pape, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Service Agency. “There must be legal impediments,” she said, delaying his removal from the country. “Ultimately, our priority is to remove security risks.”
Parminder Singh Saini at Lorne Waldman’s law office in Toronto. Saini is now fighting a deportation order to India and claims he will be tortured on his return after already serving 10 years in a Paskistani prison for his crime of hijacking an Air India plane in 1984.According to court documents, Saini was the leader of a Sikh militant group fighting with India. In 1984 he and others hijacked an Indian airliner traveling to Pakistan. He was caught and sentenced to death in Pakistan, but the term was later changed to life in prison. He was paroled in 1994 for medical reasons after serving 10 years. Saini was deported from Pakistan and came to Canada under an assumed name and sought refugee status.
When Canadian authorities discovered his true identity in the fall of 1995, they moved to deport him. While battling the removal order, Saini was given a pardon by the Pakistan government. A ruling from a federal court case in 2002 deemed the pardon irrelevant because Saini was unable to prove the Pakistani legal system was similar to Canada’s.
Saini disclosed his criminal history in his law school application, a law school source told The Star.
Law school dean Bruce Elman said he couldn’t talk about student files.
“He was in good standing throughout his time here,” Elman said. The law school doesn’t ask students applying to law school if they have been convicted of a crime.
“Most law schools don’t ask that,” Elman said. “It’s not occurred to me to ask for that.”
Saini used to visit law professor Paul Ocheje’s office, but Saini didn’t reveal details of his past to Ocheje until recently.
“He emphasized no one was harmed in the hijacking and there wasn’t a scratch on the plane, those are his own words,” Ocheje said.
Retired professor John Whiteside taught and mentored Saini.
“It’s a tragic, tragic case,” Whiteside said. “I just weep for him. He spent many, many years incarcerated. My own assessment is he’s a fine, sincere, hard-working individual.”
Saini’s supporters said he should be forgiven and allowed a second chance.
“I can only hope and pray his situation is regularized,” said Whiteside, who knew about Saini’s criminal history when Saini was still in school. He said he probably read about the hijacking in Saini’s student file.
“This is something he did when he was much younger,” Ocheje said. “He already served time. Like everyone else, we do make mistakes in our lives. Not everyone is as lucky as him to have an opportunity to redeem himself. I see him as struggling very hard to put his life back together and correct the mistake he made.”
While the Law Society of Upper Canada, the organization that regulates lawyers, did not reply to The Star, law professors interviewed said it was unlikely he would be called to the bar because of his criminal conviction.