Air India places pilot, flight purser under suspension

Sets up committee to probe sexual harrassment charge

 
Airhostess Komal Singh had filed the case against two pilots of the Sharjah Lucknow-Delhi IC 884 flight on October 3 when the incident took place.

The management, which conducted an inquiry, suspended commander Ranbir Arora and flight purser Amit Khanna, an airline spokesman said. The probe found them guilty of playing a major role in the mid-air scuffle that led the air hostess to file the molestation case against two pilots.

The management, after examining a report of its internal enquiry, has also set up a separate five-member committee, headed by a senior woman official, to probe the molestation charge while keeping the complainant grounded till the probe was over. “This committee, which has begun its investigations today, also has a representative from an NGO, in  accordance with the Government guidelines”, the airline said in a press release.

The airline had initially de-rostered the two pilots, purser and grounded the airhostess. Co-pilot Aditya Chopra continues to be de-rostered. Charge-sheets will also be issued against the two suspended employees. The alleged victim had charged that when she went to the cockpit to greet the pilots, she was abused, molested and was pushed out of the cockpit during which she sustained bruises. Purser Khanna, who tried to defend her, had got into a scuffle with the pilots.

It is said that at one point of time, both the pilots had come out of the cockpit putting a question mark on the safety of the flight. The management, though, denied this. The Airbus A-320 from Sharjah, carrying 106 passengers and seven crew had reached Lucknow when the matter was reported.

While the “attitude” of flight purser Khanna led to the altercation that later blew up into a scuffle, the behaviour of flight commander Arora, who pushed the air hostess out of the cockpit, was “objectionable”, the panel is said to have concluded. The findings of the departmental inquiry, set up now, will determine the extent of involvement and culpability of Arora and Khanna and the quantum of punishment to be awarded to them will be decided accordingly.

The Delhi police, who had registered the FIR, has recorded statements of some ‘concerned persons’ but did not identify them. Delhi Police chief Y S Dadwal said the department has also asked the airline to provide the list of passengers travelling in the business class. By virtue of being seated in the front of the aircraft and near the cockpit, these passengers could act as crucial eye-witnesses to the scuffle and throw light on the incident, a senior police official said.

Reacting to the suspension of the senior pilot, Indian Commercial Pilots Association President Shailendra Singh said, “we have full faith in the management. Whatever they have decided is as per the preliminary inquiry” but added that they reserved the right to appeal after the final outcome. He said that separate inquiries were being conducted by the airline, the police and the DGCA. “Let these be completed, then only we will decide, what should be done,” he said.

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