Tue, 24 Jan 2023 07:56 PM (IST)
Air India has closed its internal investigation into the actions of its operating crew and supporting administrative staff in the alleged urination case of November 26, 2022, the airline said in a statement on Tuesday.
In its statement, the carrier said, "Air India has closed its internal investigation into the actions by its crew operating and administrative staff supporting AI102 on November 26, 2022. The crew were approached by the complainant seeking assistance after allegedly being urinated on by a fellow passenger."
It said in the absence of any witnesses, the crew took the complainant's allegation at face value and assisted her by providing fresh clothes, helping clean her belongings and relocating her to another business-class seat of the same type as her original one.
"When awoken and confronted with the allegation, the alleged perpetrator was calm, cooperative and professed ignorance of the allegation. He had not been served excessive alcohol by the crew and did not appear intoxicated to the crew. The Commander was kept regularly informed by the cabin crew. In the judgement of the crew, the alleged perpetrator posed no risk to flight safety at any time," the carrier stated further.
"Air India acknowledges that, in immediately taking the complainant's accusation at face value and providing assistance, it follows that the matter should have been reported as a prima facie case of a passenger "...behaving in a disorderly manner toward... other passengers" and, as such, meeting the description of unruly behaviour at paragraph 4.9(d)(ii) of Civil Aviation Requirements, Section 3, Series M, Part VI (the CAR). The matter should have been classified and reported as such, without prejudice to any subsequent investigation into the facts," AI added.
It said upon receipt of the voyage report, the ground staff did not challenge the crew's assessment and, therefore, also did not report the matter as an unruly incident.
The airline further said considering the absence of witnesses to the alleged act, the fact that the alleged perpetrator was peaceful, cooperative and claimed ignorance of the event, that there was no risk to flight safety and that a resolution had been arrived at between the parties, the crew made a judgement call to record the matter as a (non-reportable) in-flight incident rather than a (reportable) case of unruliness.
"It should also be noted that, in the absence of witnesses to the alleged act, crew were being asked to make a presumption of the accused's guilt which runs contrary to natural justice and due process," the national carrier further said.
Air India also acknowledged the decision of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to impose fines on the company, a ground staff and suspend the Commander's licence.
The DGCA imposed a financial penalty of Rs 30 lakh on the airline for violation of applicable DGCA Civil Aviation Requirements. The aviation regulator also suspended the licence of the Pilot-In-Command of the flight for a period of three months.
The Director-in-Flight services of Air India was also slapped with a financial penalty of Rs 30 lakh for failing to discharge her duties as per applicable DGCA Civil Aviation Requirements.
"Air India wishes to acknowledge the good faith efforts made by the crew to handle the situation effectively in real-time, when not all facts were available," it further said.
On November 26 last year, Shankar Mishra, a business-class passenger on the New York-Delhi flight, allegedly urinated on a 70-year-old woman in an inebriated condition on board.
Delhi Police had registered an FIR against him on January 4 on a written complaint by the woman to Air India, under IPC sections 354, 509, and 510 and Section 23 of the Indian Aircraft Act.
Both the accused and the victim are from outside Delhi.
Air India banned Mishra from flying on the national carrier for four months and his employer, Wells Fargo, a US-based financial services firm, also terminated his contract in the light of the scandal.