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Businessman held for teenage actor’s molestation could face 6-month flying ban

The alleged molestation surfaced after the teenage actor posted a video, alleging that a man seated behind her in business class rubbed his foot on her shoulder and neck during a Vistara airlines flight.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2017 16:28 IST
Neha LM Tripathi
Neha LM Tripathi
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
molestation,teenage Bollywood actor,Vistara
The actor’s mother said her daughter was inappropriately touched by a passenger seated behind her. (HT Photo / Representative)

A businessman arrested for allegedly molesting a teenage Bollywood actor on a New Delhi-Mumbai Vistara flight could face a flying ban of up to six months if proven guilty under new civil aviation rules, which allow an airline to conduct an inquiry on unruly passengers.

According to Vistara’s final report to the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), the private domestic airline is examining the case and an internal committee could be constituted to decide if the 39-year-old passenger should be declared unruly.

Vistara could become the first airline to conduct an internal inquiry based on new rules for passenger misbehaviour framed by the DGCA in September, sources in the civil aviation ministry said.

Based on the actor’s allegations, the airline has placed the case under rules that deals with unruly passengers and permits punishment of up to six months of flying ban for the misbehaving flyer.

The alleged molestation surfaced after the teenager posted a video on Instagram, alleging that a man seated behind her in business class rubbed his foot on her shoulder and neck during a night flight last Saturday.

The man was arrested on Sunday and a Mumbai sessions court remanded him in judicial custody on Wednesday until it hears his bail plea on December 15.

Police have registered a case against him under the stringent protection of children from sexual offences act (Pocso) and Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code.

The section covers “assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty”.

An airline spokesperson said: “As the matter is being investigated by police, we will wait for the law to take its course.”

Vistara stated in its preliminary report to the DGCA on Sunday that the suspect had requested he should not be disturbed and he slept through the flight. “He asked for a blanket at the start of the flight and did not wake up even when the crew served meals,” an official said.

In its final report, the airline said the crew didn’t observe or were informed about any misbehaviour by the actor and her mother during the flight until touchdown.

According to Vistara, it learnt the allegation when the teenager’s mother approached airline staff in the terminal building and sought to speak to a senior official. The mother revealed that her daughter was inappropriately touched by a passenger seated behind her.

“The teenager was not present when the airline asked the mother if she wanted to register a police complaint against the passenger. But she declined and the airline complied in accordance with her wish as the teenager is a minor,” said a senior DGCA official, who didn’t wish to be identified.

DGCA chief BS Bhullar was unavailable for comments.

According to officials, the teenager was heard speaking loudly to the suspect when the aircraft was making its final descent. When the cabin crew asked her if there was trouble, they allegedly received no response.

Vipul Saxena, former air force pilot and aviation expert, said the crew acted appropriately as they are not allowed to leave their position during landing and take-off. He was responding to a query if the cabin crew could have approached the actor immediately when she raised her voice.

First Published: Dec 14, 2017 08:15 IST