New Delhi, May 3: Air India has run into some rough weather. The national carrier is facing criticism for calling back flight commander Ranbeer Arora, the main accused in a molestation case, while the prime witness, flight purser Amit Khanna, remains grounded.
The incident occurred in the cockpit of flight IC-884 on October 3, 2009, when airhostess Komal Singh was allegedly molested which followed a mid-air scuffle between the pilots and other crew members led by a steward. The plane was on its way from Sharjah to Delhi. When the aircraft landed, pilot Ranbeer Arora, co-pilot Aditya Chopra, airhostess Komal Singh and flight purser Amit Khanna were de-rostered by the airline management.
The preliminary inquiry into the incident by Air India had ruled out sexual harassment and gave a clean chit to Capt. Arora. Air India had claimed that the charges levelled by Komal Singh against the pilots were absolutely baseless and the harassment charge levelled by the Air hostess was "like an afterthought" and a ’planned and rehearsed strategy’. Air India had also issued a charge sheet against Komal Singh for violation of the conduct rules and for not complying with the company policy.
Later when she approached the National Commission for Women, the NCW backed Komal Singh. The report which took into consideration eyewitness testimonies, says, Komal Singh was subjected to a "forceful push" by Captain Ranbeer Arora which "has resulted in hurt and pain". The report also quotes the doctors’ report stating that there was an abrasion found in her right arm.
However, in December 2009, Ranbeer Arora was reinstated. The victim, Komal Singh, and co-pilot, Aditya Chopra, were also called back for duty. But Amit Khanna, the key witness, who stood by the victim, remains suspended.
Though Komal Singh and Amit Khanna could not be contacted, sources in Air India hinted that both were being pressurised to take back the case.
"It was very evident from the beginning that Air India wanted them to retract the charges. Apart from the bad name there were come technical reasons for this. Both the pilots left the cockpit which was evident from the statements of Maria Thorpe, a flight crew member.
Air India has been denying this fact right from the beginning. So, there was pressure from senior officials to withdraw the case as these revelations would have created trouble for the airline," said a senior Air India official wishing anonymity.
In the FIR filed by Komal Singh at Delhi airport following the incident, Amit Khanna has been listed as the key witness to the entire episode and the case is being heard in a city court.
An Air India spokesperson said, "The inquiry is in its final stages and will be concluded very shortly."
The co- pilot moved the Delhi High Court in April, 2010 seeking quashing of a molestation-cum-assault case lodged against him by the airhostess. In the petition, Captain Chopra submitted that Amit Khanna, flight purser was an eyewitness to the incident and has not named him in the testimonies before the Women’s Commission and Delhi police.
The Other Side
He has been chargesheeted. It’s only you people who are calling him a witness.
A spokesperson for Air India on why it is taking so long to complete the probe against Amit Khanna.