HC tells Air India to replace panel chief on air hostess’ complaint

The Delhi High Court has asked Air India (AI) to replace the chairperson of its panel looking into sexual harassment allegations by an air hostess against one of its senior officials.

Air India agreed to replace the chairperson of its internal complaints committee (ICC) after the court made it clear that it will, otherwise, stay the proceedings before the panel.

The complainant had claimed that the panel chairperson was close to the official accused of misconduct.

“The counsel for respondent 1 [AI] states that if the petitioner has any apprehension against the current chairperson of the ICC, respondent 1 shall, without going into the apprehension and in the petitioner’s interest, appoint another eminent woman as the chairperson of the ICC,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.

“What happens when you find a person in the ICC is conflicted? You replace the person but only for that matter,” the court told AI on Friday.

The court’s order came on the air hostess’ plea, challenging the constitution of the second ICC on the grounds that the woman heading it was a close friend of the official accused of sexual harassment.

The lawyer for the complainant argued that the head of the ICC had promoted the accused official and therefore the petitioner apprehended that the proceedings might not be conducted fairly.

In her plea, the woman cited several instances where the accused official allegedly used derogatory language against her as well as other women employees.

She claimed she had brought the issue to the attention of then chairman and MD of the airline in 2015 but no action was taken on her complaint.

This year she wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and an ICC was constituted after his intervention, the complainant submitted.

However, this panel did not conduct proceedings for nearly six months and did not even give her sufficient time to address her case, the petition said.

Thereafter, she wrote to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. The second panel was formed in June this year after Ms. Gandhi’s intervention, but it was headed by a person close to the accused official, the plea said.

What happens when you find a person in the ICC is conflicted? You replace the person but only for that matter

Delhi High Court

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