Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Air India 'Pee-gate': Why the case against Shankar Mishra could be petering out

 The Air India urination incident that hogged the headlines for much of January has in the last few days witnessed more twists and turns than a Bollywood potboiler.

The man in the news, 34-year-old Shankar Mishra, has been accused of urinating on an elderly female co-passenger on an Air India flight in November last year, and also evading arrest after the incident came to light.

Mishra later claimed that the woman urinated on herself as she probably suffered from urinary incontinence. After a four-month travel ban was imposed on him by Air India, Mishra’s lawyers accused the airline’s inquiry committee of “creating an imaginary seat” just to declare him guilty.

From the magistrate's court denying him bail, calling his alleged act ‘disgusting and repulsive’, to now a sessions court granting him bail, saying the woman’s claims are subject to trial, the case has taken another curious turn.

The Delhi sessions court on Monday said there was an apparent contradiction in the statement given by the complainant and her co-passenger sitting right next to her. Further, the court also told the Delhi Police that, as of date, their own witnesses are not deposing in their favour.

The case, that on the surface seemed stacked in favour of the Delhi Police and the complainant woman, now seems to be slipping from their grip.

The recent developments, especially the submissions and observations in court, have put a question mark on how strong the prosecution’s case against Mishra is.

Is the case against Shankar Mishra falling flat? Is the prosecution on thin ground? Here’s a look at the facts so far:

Delhi’s Patiala House Court on Tuesday said the statement of the passenger on seat 9C (right next to the complainant lady) reveals that she has not supported the claim made by the victim in her statement, which, of course, cannot be completely brushed aside at his stage.

The complainant’s claim has, therefore, become more of a matter of trial.

The court acknowledged that as far as prima facie material against Mishra is concerned, ordinarily, the statement of the victim itself is sufficient evidence. But, in the present case, the statement of the victim has certain claims made by her regarding the involvement of a co-passenger on seat 9C in the incident.

The Delhi Police’s case, since the beginning, has been that Mishra tried to evade arrest and had to be nabbed from Bengaluru after issuing a non-bailable warrant against him.

However, the sessions court’s observations have made that argument weak. The court said the FIR was registered a month after the incident, and a very short notice was given to Mishra for appearance.

01/02/28 Srishti Ojha/India Today

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