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Customs issues charge sheets to accused officials in Uzbek woman sexual assault case

Law Crime

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The customs department has issued charge sheets to its two officers who were suspended following allegations of sexual assault on an Uzbek woman at the Delhi international airport in May this year, according to a top official.

The move follows the submission of an investigation report by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) that found "prima facie evidence indicating that the alleged sexual harassment indeed occurred" and accordingly recommended the issuance of charge sheets against the two superintendents of customs department.

"Charge sheets have been issued to both of them. We are waiting for their response," said Manish Kumar, Commissioner of Customs (Delhi airport).

He refused to give more information.

A charge sheet is issued to a government servant as part of disciplinary proceedings detailing allegations against him or her.

Based on their reply, the inquiring authority/inquiry officer (usually a senior official) decides whether or not the charges stand proved, officials explained.

If found guilty, the quantum of punishment can range from withholding of increments to termination of service among others, depending on the seriousness of the charges.

This punishment is imposed by the disciplinary authority (usually the head of the office/department) on the basis of the inquiry findings.

In light of the seriousness of alleged sexual assault by a public servant in this case, the inquiry is likely to be conducted by the ICC instead of an inquiry officer as per a law on checking sexual harassment at work places, the officials said.

The Act requires the inquiry to be completed within 90 days. The ICC is headed by a woman and must have half its members as women, including one independent member who is not an employee of the concerned office, they said.

The alleged sexual assault on the Uzbek woman took place in May at a room in the highly secured area under the customs department at the airport, the officials said.

It was brought to the notice of the customs authorities by a 'whistleblower'.

The officials said one of the accused officer took the victim to a room, that had no CCTV camera, without being accompanied by any woman officer.

The ICC, constituted under the provisions of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, had in August submitted its investigation report in the matter.

The panel in its report said that the conduct of the officer on the morning of 03 May, 2019, violates Rule 3 C (1) of the Conduct Rules in as much, as he has, in an act of sexual harassment of a woman at a workplace.

In respect of another accused, the report said his case may be considered as a regular disciplinary matter as he was not directly involved in the incident of sexual harassment.

Notwithstanding the foregoing observation, it is apparent that the officer concerned was aware that sexual harassment of the lady passenger had taken place but he failed to take any action to prevent it or to report the matter to his superior officers at any stage, the report said.

Meanwhile, the customs department had last month referred the matter to Delhi Police for further probe. Delhi Police is yet to register a case in the matter, the officials said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sun, October 20 2019. 17:00 IST