On 15 January, a Special Court of Mumbai granted three years of rigorous imprisonment to a 41-year-old man for molesting a minor Bollywood actor, during a domestic flight in December 2017.
Convicting the accused, Vikas Sachdeva under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, the special court bench, headed by Justice AD Deo stated that “the present case was about a most common experience of sexual assault that the women face while using public transport. However, they ignore it thinking that there is no likelihood of coming across the assailant after the journey, and therefore such incidents go unreported.” The court also dismissed the accused defense that the victim was suffering from hallucinations at the time of the incident.
As per the facts of the case, the incident happened when the victim who was 17 years old at that time, was traveling by an Air Vistara flight from Delhi to Mumbai. She narrated the incident through a video post on the social media platform (Instagram), wherein she described that a middle-aged man, who was sitting right behind her kept nudging her shoulder and rubbed his foot up and down on her back and neck throughout the journey.
Subsequently, the man by the name Vikas Sachdeva was detained and convicted under Section 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with an intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code. He was also convicted under relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act since the victim was 17-years-old when the incident happened.
However, during the hearing, advocate Adnan Sheikh appearing for Vikas sought for minimum punishment, arguing that the accused was the sole breadwinner of his family. He stated that his client was a first-time offender and had no previous criminal record. However, this was countered by counsel for the prosecution by demanding maximum punishment.
Subsequently, the court granted the accused 3 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Meanwhile, after the verdict was delivered, Vikas was granted bail and his sentence was suspended to enable him to file an appeal.
“We will be filing an appeal in the High Court immediately. We have a very good case as she didn’t identify the accused during the trial and didn’t turn up before the court when recalled,” his lawyer Adnan Sheikh said.