It was triggering to hear the father of an inebriated man who urinated on a female passenger in an Air India flight claim that the incident did not happen, a co-passenger has said, as he noted that the accused was incoherent and blamed the pilot for the inaction in dealing with the situation.
Dr. Sugata Bhattacharjee, a U.S.-based renowned Doctor of Audiology, was seated next to Shankar Mishra who allegedly urinated on a woman co-passenger during the November 26 Air India flight from New York to New Delhi.
"I would not have been this vocal. I waited but when his father said this did not happen, is what triggered me," Mr. Bhattacharjee told PTI in an interview over the phone.
"The dignity of a woman was played with. The Tatas name has been tarnished. It's not a happy story. But at the end of the day, it was a moral call for me, it was morality and I thought it was my moral obligation to stand and make a complaint and I did,” he said.
Mr. Mishra's father had said in Boisar near Mumbai last week that his son is innocent and that he cannot do such a thing to a woman his mother's age.
Delhi Police arrested Mr. Mishra, 34, from Bengaluru after he was traced to that city through technical surveillance. He has been sent to judicial remand for 14 days by a Delhi Court which rejected a plea by police for his custody.
Mr. Bhattacharjee sat in seat number 8A while Mr. Mishra was in seat 8C in the business class.
He said that the law will take its own action and did not comment on the ongoing investigation.
Mr. Bhattacharjee in a handwritten complaint to the airlines had stated that the distressed passenger was made to go back to her soiled seat despite four seats in the First Class being vacant.
He said that his "complaint was that they did not follow a lot of standard operating protocols. When something like this happens, you first contain a distressed passenger."
"The whole incident is very sad. The dignity of a senior citizen was played with because of over-intake of alcohol, a young person is in trouble, he has lost his job, his family, everybody else around him is going through a hard time including him,” he said.
He said that after the incident, the flight’s crew should have taken it upon themselves to ensure that the lady is moved to a different seat, given that there were four seats available in the first-class section of the flight. Instead, the lady was made to wait for a long time and it was only after the crew rest was over, that she was given one of the seats that became available.
"That is a no no. And that is what I protested," he said, adding that when he asked why the lady was not being given an available first-class seat, he was told by the senior air hostess that she cannot make that decision and only the pilot in command can make that call.
"And that call was not made. So, this is a failure," he said.
Mr. Bhattacharjee further said that in any instance when a crime happens, “you don't try to mediate it and get away with it. They should not have put the victim and Mr. Mishra face-to-face for any negotiation.”
Instead, the captain should have alerted the ground staff about the incident before landing, and ensured that Mr. Mishra is handed over to the authorities who would have taken the appropriate action, he said.
"My anger was that nobody stood up to the responsibility and there was multiple failures in the procedural part,” he said.
He said for the crew to make the lady talk to Mr. Mishra after the incident to sort out the matter was a “no no because indecent exposure is a crime. It's a sexual assault. And once that happens, nobody should take a mediation route.”
"I was angry. I don't care about what a drunk man did because he's not in his senses and that's why he does it. But people who had the power and the authority, they showed no compassion. In a plane, the pilot is the chief person and the buck stops with him."
Mr. Bhattacharjee said the pilot should have done “anything and everything" to help and support the lady in all possible manner after such a traumatic incident.
Mr. Mishra had passed out and “nobody even wanted to wake him up because nobody knew how he would behave. They waited for him to wake up,” he said.
Recounting the events, Mr. Bhattacharjee said that Mr. Mishra had been drinking as he ate lunch and he “drank four stiff drinks right through the lunch. He would drink and he would just point to his glass and they would come and refill it.”
Mr. Mishra had then fallen asleep and at some point Mr. Bhattacharjee woke up when Mr. Mishra “practically” fell on his seat. Mr. Bhattacharjee said he thought Mr. Mishra lost his balance because of turbulence.
Mr. Bhattacharjee said that he then slept and after he woke up, “I saw [Mr. Mishra] is bright awake, has sobered up and the crew has already spoken to him once” about the incident.
"The first thing Mr. Mishra said was ‘Bro I think I am in trouble’. And my answer was, ‘yes, you are’. And, he's like, I don't know what to do, I don't remember anything happening. I had not slept, I had too many drinks.”
He added that as Mr. Mishra sobered up, he seemed “afraid”.
"But nothing justifies things like that. I am a man of giving a second chance. But I still can't understand why he did that and if you cannot handle alcohol, you should not drink that amount,” he said.
He added that before the incident, when he was talking to Mr. Mishra, he felt that Mr. Mishra “seemed a little incoherent.”
The doctor said Mr. Mishra asked him thrice about how many kids he had and what they did.
Mr. Bhattacharjee had then alerted one of the male crew members that Mr. Mishra “had way too many" drinks and to “just keep an eye” on him.
"He had consumed enough that he was not in his senses,” he said.
Mr. Bhattacharjee said that after the incident, Mr. Mishra came back to his seat and passed out.
He described the lady as very soft spoken and said she was almost in tears after the horrific incident.
He said that even after the incident, the lady did not create any scene and did not shout or scream. “She was very quiet, she’s a very, very decent lady."
Mr. Bhattacharjee said he made a written complaint about the incident the very same day. He said he had asked for a complaint book but was handed over two pieces of white paper on which he wrote his complaint.
Mr. Bhattacharjee, however, noted that two young crew members, who were working in economy class, wore gloves and helped clean the mess.
“In every disaster there are heroes, but the buck stops with the top guy — the Pilot in Command. He should have done anything and everything to handle the situation. He should have given her a fresh seat, made a formal complaint,” he said.
He said that after the incident, his thoughts are for everybody. “For the lady, who is a senior citizen, for the family of Mr. Mishra, who has a daughter and wife."
"If you can handle your drink, don't drink. I still feel Air India has one of the best connectivity and one bad apple should not tarnish the name of such a big organization. And people should do their job. That's it."