Mumbai Crime: Man convicted for 'feeling up' actor on flight says he was 'sleeping'

Updated: Jan 16, 2020, 08:26 IST | Diwakar Sharma, Vishal Singh | Mumbai

In 2017 case of molestation of then 17-year-old actor on flight, special POCSO court sentences flier to three years, says every traveller on public transport should be conscious enough to not cause any inconvenience to fellow passengers

Vikas Sachdeva
Vikas Sachdeva

Two years after 45-year-old Vikas Sachdeva was accused of molesting an actress who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, the Dindoshi Sessions Court has convicted him. Judge Abhishri Dnyaneshwar Deo, at the special POCSO court, Dindoshi Sessions court, was scathing in her verdict, saying most women go through this kind of sexual assault but never report it. And, this case proved that even women in the most expensive mode of transport were not immune to such assaults. However, the court has granted Sachdeva bail against R25,000 and the sentence is to be suspended until further orders.

Judge Deo said, "The present case is the most common experience of sexual assault on every woman travelling by public transport, but ignored by each one of them thinking that there is no likelihood of coming across the assailant after the journey. Hence, almost all such assaults go unreported. The present case will demonstrate that the most elite mode of transport is not an exception to such a common experience, that too, in business class."

The verdict reads, "Offences of sexual assault primarily take place secretly. Hence, asking for eyewitnesses to the act cannot be accepted. The defence raised by the accused that the victim, as per her social media posts, was suffering hallucinations cannot be accepted as there is no reliable evidence of this."

It also stated, "The victim was cross-examined at length but her testimony with regard to the incident that the accused had touched her shoulder and neck inappropriately with his foot is unscathed.

It is expected from every prudent person while travelling in public transport, that he should be conscious enough that he is not causing any inconvenience to fellow passengers. Moreover, under the general defences as laid down in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, 'I was sleeping' is not grounds for defence," read the order.

footThe photo of Vikas Sachdeva's foot that the actress posted on Instagram soon after the flight on December 10, 2017

Sachdeva's wife, Divya, broke down inside the courtroom when the verdict was announced. Divya has been reiterating that her husband is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the case registered at Sahar police station. He had already been removed from his position of Branch Head in a private company after the matter was highlighted in the media.

The court has given him imprisonment of three years and a fine of Rs 25,000. The special court has granted bail to Sachdeva against R25,000 and the sentence is to be suspended until further orders.

Sachdeva molested the actress on the Mumbai-bound flight of a private carrier in December 2017. He was seated just behind the actress, who was travelling with her mother.

Sachdeva's family is mulling approaching the high court to challenge the verdict announced on Wednesday. "She visited the court only once and did not identify my friend [Vikas Sachdeva]. She told court that he molested her from behind and she could not see his face. We will challenge the verdict in the high court to seek justice," said Vikas's friend Kuldeep, who was at Dindoshi court when the order was passed.

Sachdeva was returning to Mumbai after attending daylong condolence meet of his maternal uncle in Delhi. Sachdeva claimed he was fast asleep after boarding the flight and his foot touched the actress's shoulder in the business class of the private carrier.

The actress had narrated her ordeal in a video post on Instagram which went viral in 2017.

Vikas Sachdeva says
Speaking about the incident for the first time, Sachdeva said, "The girl did not identify me as her molester. Throughout the flight from Delhi to Mumbai, I had covered my face with a blanket. I don't know anything as I was very much tired and was sleeping during my journey. I was falsely implicated in the case. But I will challenge the verdict in the high court as I believe in the judiciary," who lives with his wife, specially-abled son and parents.

Defence lawyer says
"Vikas Sachdeva has been sentenced to three years after being found guilty under the POCSO ACT and IPC. We applied for suspension of sentence and are grateful that it was allowed. We respect the court for hearing our defence and will definitely appeal before the high court," said defence counsel advocate H S Anand and advocate Adnan Shaikh.

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