Bizman gets 3 years in jail for molesting actor on flightUpdated: Jan 16, 2020 00:09 IST
A special court under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act sentenced 41-year-old businessman Vikas Sachdeva to three years’ rigorous imprisonment for molesting a minor while both were travelling on a flight in December 2017. Sachdeva will move high court and has been granted bail.
On December 9, 2017, a minor, who was then an actor, had alleged she was molested by a co-passenger on board an Air Vistara flight, from Delhi to Mumbai. The minor had narrated her ordeal on social media and later, the passenger was identified as Sachdeva. He was accused of touching her neck and shoulder inappropriately with his foot. The minor has since left the film industry.
Sachdeva was found guilty under section 354 (criminal force with intent to outrage modesty) of the Indian Penal Code and under section 8 (sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
Special judge AD Deo said, “The present case is the most common experience of sexual assault on every common woman travelling by public means of transport, but ignored by each one of them thinking there is no likelihood of coming across assailants after the journey. Hence, almost all assault go unreported. The present case demonstrates that the most elite mode of transport is not an exception to such common experiences, that too in business class.”
Sachdeva had claimed he had been asleep for the duration of the flight, but the court said travelling on public transport requires one to “be conscious enough that he is not causing any inconvenience to follow passenger”. “Moreover, under the general defences as laid down in Indian Penal Code, ‘I was sleeping’ is not a ground of defence,” said the court.
The prosecution examined seven witnesses, including the complainant, her mother (who had accompanied the minor on the flight), the passenger who had sat next to the accused, the mother of the accused and members of the cabin crew. The passenger seated next to the accused told the court he had seen the accused apologise to the complainant later in the flight, which was seen to corroborate the complainant’s claim.
The court held the complainant was cross examined at length, but her testimony remained “unscathed”.
Sachdeva’s defence questioned the credibility of the minor’s testimony by raising questions about her mental health and pointed out that the prosecution had not got her to identity the accused during her deposition. When the minor had been recalled to identify the accused, she could not appear in court.
However, the court held that the identity of the accused was well established by other witnesses and the Air Vistara passenger list.
Sachdeva was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, but the sentence was later suspended for him to approach high court. He has been released on bail.