MUMBAI – Police have filed a sexual assault case against an airline passenger after 17-year-old Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim said the male passenger had molested her during a New Delhi-Mumbai flight, police said on Monday.
A special court ordered police to detain the passenger for interrogation until Wednesday, when the case will be heard next. It can take months for formal charges to be filed in India.
Wasim was seen sobbing in a video she posted on Instagram after getting off a Vistara flight. She alleged she was attacked by the passenger seated behind her.
“He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck,” Wasim said in the post. “Is this how we are going to take care of girls?”
The video sparked outrage on social media with fans coming out in support of Wasim, who shot to fame through her role as a child wrestler in the 2016 blockbuster Bollywood drama “Dangal”.
Police have registered a case against a man identified as Vikas Sachdeva, under Section 354 – for assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty – and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, a Mumbai police control room official said.
Vistara is jointly owned by Tata and Singapore Airlines.
“We are investigating fully and will support Zaira in every way required,” Vistara chief strategy and commercial officer Sanjiv Kapoor said. “We have zero tolerance for this kind of thing.”
Neither Sachdeva or his lawyers could be reached for comment. In court, Sachdeva’s lawyer accused Wasim of making the allegations for publicity, and asked why she had not complained to crew members during the flight.
Local media quoted the suspect’s wife, Divya Sachdeva, as saying her husband was innocent and that ahe was returning from a funeral and had been asleep on the flight. She accused Wasim of having made the allegations for publicity.
A spokeswoman for the airline said it had provided details to the police and aviation authorities and its senior management had flown to Mumbai to assist Wasim in the investigation. “We are deeply concerned and regret the unfortunate experience Ms. Zaira Wasim had onboard our flight last night.”
India’s National Commission for Women, a government-appointed body fighting for women’s rights, has asked the airline to explain why the crew did not step in to help the actress, according to local media reports.
“This is not done at all,” Wasim, who hails from the northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, was seen saying in the video while wiping away tears. “This is not…how people should be made to feel.”