Singapore-based Indian businessman denies molesting woman

An image taken from a video of the incident showing Dr Ravindra Jhunjhunwala, who is out on bail while police investigation is ongoing.
An image taken from a video of the incident showing Dr Ravindra Jhunjhunwala, who is out on bail while police investigation is ongoing.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

YouTube clips of confrontation on Indian domestic flight go viral

A Singapore-based Indian businessman has been arrested and let out on bail as an investigation is launched into his alleged involvement in a case of molestation on board a domestic flight in India.

Dr Ravindra Jhunjhunwala, a Singapore permanent resident with business interests in Singapore and India, has been accused by a woman passenger of touching her on an IndiGo flight from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar on Jan 27.

The entrepreneur, believed to be in his 60s, was seated behind the 32-year-old woman on the flight.

"He inserted his hand through the gap in the seats and tried to inappropriately touch her body with the motive of sexual gratification," Bhubaneswar Police Commissioner R.P. Sharma was quoted as saying by India's NDTV.

Dr Jhunjhunwala is chairman of the Orind and Shashwat group of companies, which deal with heat-resistant material for various industries.

Dr Jhunjhunwala, who is now in India as his passport has been impounded by the police, told The Straits Times by telephone that he has been framed.

"I have been well and truly framed. The truth will come out and I will be exonerated. The matter is under investigation.

"I have no criminal record in Singapore. In (my) 18 years (in Singapore), there is not a single blemish on me," he said.

But in videos shot with a cellphone by the woman, in which she confronts the businessman first on board the flight and then in the airport after alighting, he can be heard saying: "I'm prepared to face any consequence for it. I made a mistake..."

When the woman suggests he give her a written apology, he says: "For touching you I want to give you a written- I request you."

The videos of the incident uploaded on YouTube have gone viral. The first video taken on board the flight has been viewed more than four million times.

Television channels have also aired the videos.

In the first video, taken as passengers were getting ready to disembark, the woman is seen telling off the businessman, who sits in his seat covering his face with his hand.

Alternating between English and Hindi, she says: "I'm video-taping you, mister! If you ever do this again, you'll remember this episode.

"You think we girls stay silent and you can do anything, right? Look here, why are you so bashful now?

"Have you seen your age? Old man. You are halfway to the grave but still do not have enough brains.

"I will call security. I'll make sure I make a complaint."

The woman cannot be named because alleged victims of sexual crimes cannot be identified under Indian laws.

Such crimes are in focus in India since the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi in 2012.

The woman was later treated in a hospital in Singapore, but she died from her injuries.

The brutal attack has led to a tightening of laws against sexual violence.

Reporting of such crimes has also risen since the 2012 tragedy.

Police have registered a case against the businessman under a section in the Indian Penal Code related to unwelcome overtures, which carry a maximum sentence of three years' jail.

"We have lodged a case and we are investigating. We have interviewed the Singapore-based man. He is out on bail," said police investigator Rashmi Ranjan Sahu.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg