NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed Air India to ensure its panel, looking into the sexual harassment allegations by an air hostess against one of its senior officials, ensures confidentiality of the names of the witnesses who would depose in support of the complainant.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru asked the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) constituted by the airline to ensure the witnesses are provided a secure environment to depose in and that they are cross-examined through interrogatories -- questions and answers -- instead of face-to-face.
The direction was issued after the air hostess moved a plea challenging the ICC's July 20 decision rejecting her request that a local commissioner be appointed to examine the witnesses.
In her plea, filed through advocate Sanjoy Ghose, she has said most of the witnesses, who are women, are apprehensive about disclosure of their names as they work in the same organisation and are married.
The court directed the air hostess to file her list of witnesses before the ICC in a sealed cover.
It also asked her to move a representation before the ICC for examination of witnesses by a local commissioner and said the panel will consider her request in accordance with the law.
The court allowed the official, accused of sexual harassment, to cross examine the witnesses but only through interrogatories and not face-to-face.
It also directed the air hostess to refrain from making any statement on any media channel, social media platform or any private group regarding the case after the accused official said his entire career has been compromised as everything about the matter has been put on social media allegedly by her.
The official's claim was disputed by Ghose. With the directions, the court disposed of the air hostess' plea.
She had in July moved the high court to replace the chairperson of the ICC and directions to that effect were issued to Air India. She had claimed in her earlier plea that the panel chairperson was close to the official accused of misconduct.
Air India had agreed to replace the chairperson of its then ICC after the high court made it clear that it would otherwise stay the proceedings before the panel.
In her earlier plea, the woman had cited several instances where the accused official had allegedly used derogatory language against her as well as other women employees.
She had claimed that in 2015, she had brought the issue to the attention of then chairman and managing director of the airline, but no action was taken on her complaint.
In 2018 she had written to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and after his intervention an ICC was constituted, she had said and added the panel had not conducted the proceedings for nearly six months and did not even give her sufficient time to address her case.
Thereafter, she wrote to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and after her intervention, the second panel was formed in June this year, but it was headed by a person allegedly close to the accused official.