MUMBAI: Bombay high court refused to quash a criminal complaint filed against an Air India pilot who did not wear a mask and whose saliva droplets allegedly flew onto a Directorate General of Civil Aviation inspector’s face as he argued over the aviation regulator’s Covid-19 sanitization measures for simulators.
A bench of justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale dismissed a plea by Captain Rajneesh Sharma to quash the FIR lodged by airport police station on July 3, 2020 under IPC sections including 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life). The FIR said on June 2, 2020, an angry Sharma came to the briefing room at the AI simulator training centre at Kalina and questioned Captain Charanveersingh Randhawa about regulations for sanitizing simulators after every session. He banged on the table aggressively, used extremely abusive language and pushed Randhawa, who fell on the table. “It also alleged that the petitioner was not wearing a mask and by shouting at respondent (Randhawa), droplets of spit from the mouth of the petitioner fell on the face of respondent,” the HC verdict of January 18 noted.
Sharma was suspended on June 3, 2020 and his airport entry pass (AEP) withdrawn. His suspension order was withdrawn on June 24 and on July 7, AI issued him penalty of strict censure. His advocate Arshad Shaikh said AEP was issued subject to outcome of the petition. He said FIR does not disclose commission of offence. Citing delay in the FIR, he said while departmental proceedings resulted in minor penalty, the FIR would certainly not lead to conviction.
The judges disagreed saying the FIR and material on record do indicate offence. They said a written police complaint was filed immediately on June 3. Also, the manner in which Randhawa and two witnesses “described the falling of the droplets of spit from the mouth of the petitioner on the face of the respondent (Randhawa), it cannot be said that even prima facie no case can be said to be made out under section 269 of IPC” which is clearly a cognizable offence.
While Sharma relied on an earlier ruling by the HC’s Nagpur bench where FIR under section 269 was quashed, the judges said he could not draw a parallel as the applicants’ Covid-19 test report was negative in that case. “In the present case, there is no such material before this court and the allegations made in this context by respondent (Randhawa) assume great significance due to the fact that Covid-19 pandemic is indeed prevalent even today, and certainly, it was at intense stage on the date of the incident,” they added.

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