The government has compulsorily retired a customs superintendent posted at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for allegedly molesting two woman passengers from Ukbekistan, a finance ministry official said.
“The superintendent was first suspended for his alleged misconduct and later on December 21 he was served the notice of compulsory retirement under the Fundamental Rule (FR) 56(j),” the official said, requesting anonymity. FR 56(j) deals with premature retirement of senior officers.
The action was taken against the officer on the basis of an incident on the night of May 2, 2019. That night two women Uzbekistani passengers arrived from Tashkent. One of them was taken outside the CCTV coverage area upon reaching the green channel and was detained for an hour. Later she was allowed to leave as there was no seizure of any contraband, the official said.
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The second Uzbekistani passenger was similarly detained for over 30 minutes and then she, too, was released without any seizure of contraband, he said.
“Both the passengers were confined alone in a room with the superintendent without the presence of any woman customs officer and both the passengers were allegedly subjected to sexual harassment and molestation,” he said.
Later, one of the passengers testified in front of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and identified the officer, accusing him of molestation and obscene sexual acts in the preventive room, he added.
“On the basis of inquiry and analysis of video footage, the official was given compulsory retirement. Further inquiries and criminal proceeding will, however, continue,” he said.
The department of revenue (DoR), an arm of the union finance ministry that also controls the customs department, suspended the official while the matter was investigated under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. “The committee held detailed enquiries and finally recommended his compulsory retirement under FR 56(j) on charges of ‘gross misconduct’, ‘sexual harassment of grave nature’ besides ‘acute adverse impact on the image of the department’ and lowering the morals of the officers of the service,” the official said.
“Taking a holistic view of the record of the officer, the committee concluded that his (accused) conduct is such that his continuance in service would be a menace to public service and injurious to public interest,” he said.
Notwithstanding the order of compulsory retirement, the departmental inquiries and criminal proceedings, if any, against the superintendent will continue, he said. “Appropriate action may be taken by the disciplinary authority as and when the charges are proved as compulsory retirement under FR 56(j) is not a punitive measure,” he added.