This article on ‘Air India Urination case: Facts and Laws’ was written by Shudhi Malhotra, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
In the “Air India urination case”, Shankar Mishra is accused of “outraging the modesty of a woman,” a crime that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine, or both. Shankar Mishra, an Air India passenger who is accused of peeing on a female passenger on a New York-New Delhi aircraft on November 26 of last year, asserted in court in Delhi on January 11 that while his behaviour was vulgar and revolting, it did not constitute an offence against the woman’s modesty. Although the court deferred its decision, it denied him bail, as is customary when a prima facie case is established.
Background of the Air India Urination case
The Air-India incident came to the notice of the DGCA only on January 4 and the latest actions are for violations of various norms. Air India first received the complaint from the woman on November 27 and commenced engaging in correspondence with the affected passenger’s family on November 30.
When the plaintiff complained in writing to Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekharan that the crew had not done much to help her out of the position and that her clothes, shoes, and luggage smelled like urine, the company became aware of the problem. On January 6, 2023, Shankar Mishra was detained by the Delhi Police while he was in Bengaluru. Additionally, the Metropolitan Magistrate of the Patiala House Court in Delhi had rejected his request for bail in the case.
In response to a complaint made by the woman to Air India under sections 354, 509, and 510 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 23 of the Indian Aircraft Act, Police had filed a First Information Report (FIR) against him. Shankar Mishra’s employment at Wells Fargo, where he was the Vice President, was terminated as soon as the incident came to light.
What does it mean to “outrage the modesty of a woman”?
In violation of the Indian Penal Code, it is unlawful to insult a woman’s modesty. For the offence, IPC Section 354 specifies a maximum five-year prison sentence, a fine, or both. This sentence used to read:
Assault on a woman or use of unlawful force to upset her sense of modesty. Any person who assaults a woman or uses criminal force against her with the intent to offend or knowing that doing so will likely offend her modesty will be punished with either a fine or imprisonment of any sort for a time that may reach two years or both.
The term was increased to not less than one year and up to five years in 2013 to make Section 354 more severe.
What elements constitute a violation of this section?
The offence is cognizable (which means that the police can arrest without a warrant), non-bailable (which means that the judge has the discretion to grant bail rather than it being a right of the accused), and it can be tried by any magistrate.
The IPC’s Sections 351 and 350 provide definitions for the terms “assault” and “criminal force,” respectively, as they are used in this section.
According to Section 351, “Whoever makes any gesture, or any preparation, intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture, or preparation, will induce any person present to suspect that he is about to use criminal force against that person, is said to commit an assault.”
According to Section 350, “Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent, to commit any offence, or intends to cause, or knows it is likely that he will cause, injury, fear, or annoyance to that person by using such force, is said to use criminal force to that other.”
Less serious crimes are covered by Section 509 of the IPC, which deals with “statement, gesture, or act intended to offend the modesty of a lady.” The key distinction between Sections 509 and 354 IPC is that the latter threatens bodily injury or attack on the woman in addition to outraging her modesty.
Shankar Mishra is barred from Air India for four months
Shankar Mishra was barred from Air India flights for four months. This four-month ban will take effect on January 18 and is, in addition to the one-month ban the airline put in place on December 20.
According to Air India’s statement, Shankar Mishra falls under the definition of an “unruly passenger” and is therefore prohibited from flying for four months by the applicable Civil Aviation Requirements. This conclusion was reached by a three-member internal committee that was independent and was chaired by a former district judge. The airline claimed that it informed other airlines operating in the nation and that it had sent the DGCA a copy of the Internal Committee report.
Submission on behalf of Shankar Mishra
Mishra’s legal team stated that they disagreed with the committee’s conclusions the day after the suspension was put in place and that they were already preparing to appeal the judgment by the DGCA CAR for Unruly Passengers, according to news agency ANI.
Mishra’s attorneys, Ishanee Sharma and Akshat Bajpai stated that while they respected the Internal Inquiry Committee’s authority and purpose and disagreed with its conclusions, they were already in the process of appealing judgment by the DGCA CAR for Unruly Passengers.
In addition, the lawyers claimed that Air India’s “faulty” report was made up because they were unable to come up with an “acceptable explanation” for the occurrence.
What did the court say in the Air India Urination case?
The act was deemed to be “utterly unpleasant and repulsive” by the Delhi court, which granted him bail. Mishra’s bail was denied by Metropolitan Magistrate (Mahila court) Komal Garg at Patiala House court because she claimed that the accused act was enough to offend any woman’s modesty. The accused knew nothing about the plaintiff. The accusation that the accused relieved himself on the plaintiff is abhorrent and revolting. Any woman’s modesty would be offended by the purported deed alone. The accused’s egregious behaviour has startled the public and has to be condemned, the court said.
The accused did not dispute that he was intentionally intoxicated throughout the flight, according to the court. The court stated, “The alleged fact demonstrates the accused’s intention.” In opposition to the bail request, additional public prosecutor Shruti Singhal argued that the accused was a powerful and affluent individual who, if granted bail, may interfere with the inquiry by getting in touch with the complainant. The refusal of police custody, according to Singhal, was the subject of a revision petition.
- Vineet Upadhyay, Shankar Mishra gets bail in Air India urination case, Times of India, 1 Feb 2023, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/shankar-mishra-gets-bail-in-air-india-urination-case/articleshow/97506218.cms#:~:text=NEW%20DELHI%3A%20A%20Delhi%20court,under%20the%20influence%20of%20alcohol.
- Shubham Singh, Air India ‘pee-gate’ case: Top bosses knew about urinating incident after flight landed, emails show, Business Today, 21 January 2023, available at: https://www.businesstoday.in/industry/aviation/story/air-india-pee-gate-case-top-bosses-knew-about-urinating-incident-after-flight-landed-emails-show-367009-2023-01-21