The Bombay High Court on Tuesday suspended the sentence of a businessman convicted of molesting a former Bollywood child actor in 2017, while stating that a woman always knows a man’s intention when he touches her or looks at her, PTI reported. Justice Prithviraj Chavan made the observation while hearing an appeal filed by the 41-year-old businessman, Vikas Sachdeva, in the case.
In January, a sessions court had convicted Sachdeva under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act for molesting the former actor, who is now an adult, and sentenced him to three years in prison.
On February 20, Sachdeva filed a plea in the High Court, claiming he was not guilty. Advocate Aniket Nikam, who appeared for Sachdeva, told the court on Tuesday that his client had been wrongly convicted.
In his arguments, Nikam claimed that even if Sachdeva’s leg touched the complainant’s, his intention was not to harass her. “It must have been a mistake,” he added.
The judge, however, asked why Sachdeva decided to keep his leg on the arm rest of the seat in front of him in the first place. “You [Sachdeva] were travelling in business class where you have a lot of space,” he said. “ Then why keep your leg on someone else’s arm rest?”
“A woman may know less but she understands more,” the judge said. “It is a natural gift. [Whether it is] a touch or a look...a man will not understand but a woman knows the intention behind these. It is only the victim who can talk about the accused’s real intention. He will never admit to touching her intentionally.”
Nikam argued that at the time of the incident, the complainant had not complained to the crew members and that she even walked out of the flight “smiling”. The court objected to this and said there is no fixed code of conduct on how a woman should react to such incidents. “This is not mathematics,” the judge said. “There is no straitjacket formula on how a woman would behave or react.”
Chavan also highlighted the struggle of scores of women who face similar incidents of harassment while travelling in local trains and buses on a daily basis.
The court then suspended Sachdeva’s sentence till the appeal is heard and decided. It further asked the businessman to submit a fresh bail bond on the surety of Rs 25,000 and directed him not to leave Mumbai without the court’s permission. “There is no scope of the appeal being heard and decided in the near future, and since the sentence imposed on the applicant [Sachdeva] is short, the sentence stands suspended,” the court observed.
In 2017, the child actor had alleged via a live video on Instagram that Sachdeva had misbehaved with her. She also shared a photo that reportedly showed him with his foot on her armrest. “I ignored it the first time and blamed the turbulence for it,” she had then posted on Instagram. “Until I woke up to this pleasant sight of his beautiful foot rubbing my back and neck. Guess he could not sit like a civilised human being and placed his foot on my arm rest while he is fully ‘phelaoed’ [spread] on his seat.”
The Mumbai Police arrested Sachdeva, a senior executive with an entertainment company, on December 10, 2017.