Mumbai: Observing that a woman understands the intention when a man touches her or even looks at her, the Bombay High Court granted relief to a businessman convicted for molesting a minor actress on a domestic flight. The HC while admitting his appeal against conviction, suspended the three years rigorous imprisonment imposed upon him.
Vikas Sachdev, 41, the businessman, who was convicted last month by a sessions court petitioned a bench of Justice Prithviraj Chavan, challenging the conviction and also his punishment. He was convicted for outraging the modesty of the minor girl by a sessions court last month. He was also convicted under the relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Sachdev's appeal came up for hearing before Justice Chavan on Tuesday, who admitted his plea and posted it for detailed hearing in due course.
Arguing for Sachdev, advocate Aniket Nikam told the bench that his client was wrongly convicted by the lower court as he did not harass the alleged victim purposely and that his leg might have had touched her by mistake.
The contention was, however, trashed by the court, saying, “You (Sachdev) were travelling in business class and it is obvious that you might have a lot of space there. This court fails to understand why did you keep your feet on someone else's armrest?”
The court further said that no man would ever admit that he intentionally touched a woman in an inappropriate manner. “I can say that a woman may know less but she understands more. It is a natural gift. Whether it is a touch or a mere look, a man will not be able to understand but a woman knows the intention behind these,” Justice Chavan observed.
Justice Chavan further added that only a woman can speak about the intention or the mens rea of a man, who touches her inappropriately.
During the course of the hearing, Nikam argued that despite being molested, the victim did not speak a word while being onboard, nor did she complain to the flight crew.
At this, Justice Chavan said that there is no fixed pattern or formula for women to react or behave after such incidents. “Let us be clear that this is not some mathematics. There is no straitjacket formula on how a woman would behave or react in such a situation. I can say that most of the women experience such incidents in local trains and buses,” Justice Chavan observed.
The court, however, noted that since there is a huge number of other appeals to be decided, Sachdev's appeal might take some time to come up for hearing. The bench accordingly, suspended his sentence till the time the HC decided his appeal. The bench further ordered him to furnish fresh bail bonds of Rs 25,000 and not to leave Mumbai.
Notably, the incident occurred when Sachdev and the victim were both on board a Delhi to Mumbai flight in December 2017. Both of them were travelling in a domestic flight of Air Vistara.
According to the victim, throughout the journey, Sachdev, who was sitting just behind her, continuously touched her inappropriately. She had narrated her ordeal in a video, she posted on social media site Instagram. Subsequently, a case was registered against Sachdev and he was arrested by the Mumbai Police.