Man Accused of Molesting Minor Bollywood Actor on Flight Arrested
The alleged molester has been identified as Vikash Sachdev.
Mumbai Police, on Monday, 11 December, arrested the man accused of molesting a minor actor in a Mumbai-bound Air Vistara flight.
The man has been identified as Vikash Sachdev. Deputy Commissioner of Police Anil Kumbhare said he will be produced in the court on Monday.
Sachdev has been booked under section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of IPC, and relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) since the actor is a minor, Senior Police Inspector, Sahar, Lata Shirsat, said.
Sachdev’s wife rubbished the allegations, claiming that her husband was innocent with “no intention to molest”. She suggested that there maybe a misunderstanding claiming a “family man can never do such a thing.”
“My husband is innocent, had no intention to molest. There was a young death in family, which is where he went. He hadn’t slept for 24 hours. He asked crew to not disturb and wanted to sleep,” she told ANI.
“His foot was on the armrest but not with the intention to harass. There was no immediate reaction by her. I don’t know why she levelled these allegations, maybe there was a misunderstanding. He is a family man and can never do such a thing. We want justice,” she was quoted as saying.
In a live Instagram post on 9 December, the teenage Bollywood actor broke down and accused the man seated behind her on the flight of rubbing his foot against her back and neck while she was half-asleep on the flight. She said:
So, I just landed and you know the whole irony of this is that the guy... this is not done at all. This is not the way, this is not a girl should be made to feel because this is terrible. Is this how they are doing to take care of girls? No one will help us if we don’t decide to help ourselves. This is the worst thing.
The 17-year-old said she tried to click a photo of the man, but couldn't get a clear shot due to the dim lights. In an Instagram post, she said:
Managed to get this (shot of the molester’s foot). The lights were dimmed so it was even worse. It continued for another 5-10 minutes and then I was sure of it. He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck.
Air Vistara Vows Action
In a series of statements, Air Vistara which is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, said regretted the "unfortunate experience" and apologised to the actor.
Vistara said the actor did not bring the incident to the notice of the crew members until the descent of the flight. All cabin crew have been summoned for inquiry in the incident, the Airlines said, adding that the actor raised an alarm and yelled at the man when the crew members were seated, as is mandatory during the descent of a flight.
National Commission for Women Intervenes
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women took cognizance of the incident tweeted saying that will be involving the Maharashtra DGP in the case. Commenting on the incident, NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said:
I just saw the video on Instagram and my heart goes out to her. I am really horrified the way this incident happened and after that the crew didn’t help this girl. That was very shocking because Vistara claims that it has zero tolerance. Vistara hasn’t sensitised their crew to take action against men torturing women on flight. I am taking suo moto cognisance of this and giving notice to Vistara. Also a copy to DGP Maharashtra to act against Vistara Airlines.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was "appalled" by the incident and demanded swift action against the culprit.
Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also demanded action against the accused.
(An earlier version of this story on The Quint named the victim since she had made a public statement. This story has been updated following legal review.)
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