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Background Facts 

The petitioner was appointed as a pilot in a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) squadron while the accused was the leader of such squadron. On several occasions, the accused tried to come close to her and befriend her with the wrong intentions alleged by the petitioner in her plea.

Almost after 2years and 2months the petitioner was relocated and posted at Awantipur with her husband, who is an Air Force officer. As per the report, the harassment started then and there alleged by the petitioner.

She alleges that the respondent tried to cross his limits and used to pass lewd and sexually coloured comments such as “isko hath lagao toh current lagta hai”. Petitioner decisively told him not to pass such lewd remarks,”.

The accused did not stop there and again passed immodest remarks at the petitioner at a Diwali party and the same is stated in the petition.

Such stuff also started to be seen at her workplace as the accused requested the commanding officer of the air squadron to give her an order in writing to continue her aircraft service without her son while being conscious that she was still nursing her child.

When the petitioner conveyed her restraints and despite the availability of other crew members the accused asked the commanding officer of the air squadron to take action against her claim in a plea.

Subsequently, several instances of harassment lead to the lodging of a complaint with IAF authorities on December 18, 2020. Still, no assistance was provided to the petitioner in lodging a first information report (FIR) against the accused. Consequently, she reported the matter to the police.

Afterward accused got bail in the case and filed a plea before the high court for quashing the case.

ICC Proceedings Initiated

It is alleged by the petitioner that ICC proceedings initiated under the Air Force Order (AFO) are violative of Article 14 of the Constitution as the accused and his witnesses are not subject to cross-examination while she and her witnesses are subject to the same.

The AFO declares that firstly aggrieved woman will be making her statement and then she is going to be cross-examined by the respondent. Thereafter her witnesses will oust their statements and would be cross-examined by the respondent. Now the respondent will make his statement to the ICC, having additional knowledge after the prior process, and then his witnesses will be called, however, no right of the aggrieved woman to cross-examine.

The petitioner and her witnesses were subjected to distressed and detailed cross-examination for over six days.

Hence, she contested that either she should also get the right to cross-examine the accused and his witnesses or the same right should not be provided to the accused.

She claimed in her plea that the ICC is not a temporary fact-finding body but a committee with a fixed tenure. However, the same has been changed one after the other without even telling her the reasons for the same.

The petitioner has sought direction from the ICC to hold a just and fair inquiry. She also prayed for the transfer of the accused so that he does not threaten and harass her and other witnesses. The matter will be heard next on May 10.

What is your take on sexual harassment at the workplace and arbitrary use of power by the departmental committee while inspecting the matter? Tell us in the comments below.

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