‘Haath lagao toh current lagta hai’: IAF pilot moves J&K HC alleging sexual harassment by senior officer
An Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot has moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court alleging that she was sexually harassed by her Flight Commander.
In the plea, the woman officer also mentioned the unfair manner of inquiry by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), reports said on Tuesday.
Justice Sanjeev Kumar of the J&K High Court issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Defence and Air Force officials, and asked them to file their responses within four weeks, according to a report in Bar and Bench.
The HC also stayed the proceedings before the ICC.
The matter will come up for hearing on May 10.
What is the case?
In her plea, the woman IAF officer alleged that the accused repeatedly demanded sexual favours from her and passed objectionable comments against her. She also accused the IAF officer of touching her inappropriately.
“He touched her on her shoulder from behind and made lewd remarks with lustful eyes and demeanor, ‘Le tujhe touch kiya ab kaise karegi apne aap ko sanitise?’ Petitioner didn’t feel comfortable but didn’t know how to react as she had not expected this response. The said touch was unwelcome and extremely unsolicited and was an assault on the dignity of the complainant being a lady officer,” the petition said.
The woman said during her time in a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Squadron, the accused, then a Squadron Leader, tried to come close and befriend her. The woman stated in the petition that she was getting indications that the accused had wrong intentions about her.
Allegations of sexual harassment against Flight Commander
She was posted to Awantipur and then two years later to Jammu, where the respondent was posted as a Flight Commander. The woman officer claimed the harassment began during this period.
“The respondent tried to cross his limits and he passed a lewd and sexually coloured remark/commentisko hath lagao toh current lagta hai. Petitioner firmly told him not to pass such lewd comments,” the plea stated.
As per the petition, the accused again passed remarks at her during a Diwali party. She alleged that since she was not showing any interest, it started reflecting in official work.
FIR filed against IAF officer
The woman officer finally lodged a complaint with the IAF on December 18, 2020. However, she went to the police on her own as she claimed that the authorities failed to perform the duties of an ideal employer. Following this, an FIR was lodged.
The accused, meanwhile, got bail in the case. He also filed a plea under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) before the High Court to quash the case.
Proceedings in ICC
In her petition, the woman IAF officer took strong objection to the manner in which the ICC, constituted under the Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act), conducted its proceedings.
She alleged that when ICC proceedings began, she and her witnesses were subjected to intimidation and cross-examination over six days. The petitioner said she was denied the opportunity to cross-examine the accused and his witnesses.
The Air Force Order (AFO), under which the ICC proceedings are held, is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, she stated in the plea.
“The ICC is not a temporary fact-finding body but a committee with a fixed tenure. However, the same has been changing one after another without even spelling the reasons to the petitioner,” the plea mentioned.
The woman officer has now sought a direction to the ICC to hold a fair inquiry and also prayed for the transfer of the accused person so that he does not harass her and other witnesses.