The Bombay High Court on Tuesday suspended the three-year sentence of businessman Vikas Sachdeva who was found guilty of molesting the then 17-year-old actress on an Air Vistara flight. Sachdeva had been convicted by Special POCSO Court under Section 354 of IPC and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The alleged incident had taken place in 2017.
Justice Prithviraj Chavan heard 41-year-old Sachdeva’s appeal against his conviction and the subsequent three year sentence awarded to him. The Special POCSO Court had allowed Sachdeva’s plea for bail the same day in January this year, and suspended the sentence awarded to him, granting him time for the present appeal. Later in February, Sachdeva moved High Court in appeal challenging the Special court’s decision.
Appearing on behalf of Sachdeva, Advocate Aniket Nikam submitted that there were contradictions between the complainant’s version of the incident and other eyewitnesses in the case.
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The crew members categorically deposed that the accused was found sleeping throughout the flight and that no such no incident was noticed was by them, Nikam argued. He also said that his client’s leg could not have touched the complainant’s shoulder considering the distance between two business class seats.
Justice Chavan in his order made the below comments:
There is no reason for her to lie and a woman may speak less but she understands more. It is a natural gift for a woman to understand touch. Look a man may not understand but a woman knows man’s intention when he touches her. It is only the victim who can talk about the accused person.
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Not just this, Justice Chavan also asked Sachdev’s lawyer-
You (Sachdeva) were travelling in business class where you have a lot of space, then why keep your leg on someone else’s arm rest?
Nikam further submitted that neither the complainant nor her mother complained to the crew members and in fact ‘she walked out of the flight smiling’. To this the Court said,
This is not mathematics. There is no straitjacket formula on how a woman should behave or react when faced with such a situation.
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Justice Chavan added that every woman has experienced such incidents in local trains and buses.
Court noted that since hearing in appeal is not likely to be concluded soon and the sentence imposed is short, it can be suspended. Thus, the sentence was suspended till the appeal is heard. Sachdeva has been directed to submit two sureties of Rs 25,000 each and asked not to leave Mumbai without seeking prior permission from the sessions court.
Background to the Case
The actress, who was 17 at the time of the incident, had stepped out of the flight and took to social media to speak about the alleged touch. She had stated that Sachdeva was “constantly rubbing his foot against her back and neck” while she was trying to sleep in an Air Vistara flight from Delhi to Mumbai. She also added that despite informing the staff in the flight about the incident, they did not help her.
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Sachdeva on the other hand, alleges that he was trying to sleep on the flight and that the actress “mistook” it for molestation. In his appeal, Sachdeva denies all allegations against him and states that the trial court had erred in its judgment. He also submits that he had gone to Delhi on a day-long trip to attend a funeral and was very tired, which is why he slept the entire flight with his leg on the armrest.