Mumbai: Man convicted of molesting minor actor

Mumbai: A Dindoshi sessions court on Wednesday sentenced a man to three years in jail for molesting a minor actor during a flight in 2017.

The 41-year-old Vikas Sachdeva was convicted under a section of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and under section 354 of IPC (assault or criminal force on a woman with an intent to outrage her modesty).

The court has levied a fine of Rs 25,000 on him under the POCSO Act. The incident had occurred in December 2017 when the actor was travelling from Delhi to Mumbai with her mother by an Air Vistara flight to attend an award function.

According to the police complaint, the passenger sitting in the seat behind her was trying to touch her inappropriately with his feet that was on her armrest, for which she had confronted him and he had apologised.

The man had claimed in his defence during the trial by appearing as one of the defence witnesses, that he had been exhausted after attending his uncle’s funeral and was sleeping throughout the flight.

Additional sessions Judge AD Deo stated in her judgment that she did not find the testimony of Sachdeva reliable.

It was also his defence that the actor had made false allegations on him for publicity. The court said regarding this it did not find substance in the contention as the victim was already famous in her profession and also nominated for an award.

After the sentencing, advocates for the accused Anand Charanbir and Adnan Shaikh filed a plea for suspension of Sachdeva’s sentence till they file an appeal in the high court.

Judge Deo then suspended the sentence on the condition of a cash bond and surety. Shaikh said Sachdeva will be appealing against the sentence as the victim had failed to identify him during the trial.

About this, the judgment noted that though she had not identified him, her mother and another passenger as well as cabin crew who deposed had identified Sachdeva during their depositions.

What the court said: “..though the victim was cross-examined at length, her testimony…is unscathed.” “..a witness cannot be expected to possess a photographic memory and recall the details of an incident. It is not as if a videotape is replayed on the mental screen.”

Regarding mixing up facts: “A witness though wholly truthful is liable to be overawed by court atmosphere and piercing cross-examination...the subconscious mind of the witness sometimes so operates on account of the fear of looking foolish or being disbelieved…it is a sort of psychological defence mechanism.”