SINGAPORE - A quality assurance engineer who molested a stewardess on board a Singapore-bound Scoot flight from Cochin, India, was sentenced on Friday (Sept 27) to four months' jail.
Indian national Vijayan Mathan Gopal, 39, who was working in Singapore, has since lost his job.
Reeking of alcohol when he boarded the flight in November 2017, the Singapore permanent resident had outraged the woman's modesty by touching her buttock, placing his hand on her right thigh and cupping her face with his hands.
After a trial, District Judge Salina Ishak found him guilty of three molestation charges last month. He committed these offences between 4am and 8.14am on Nov 2, 2017.
In sentencing Vijayan on Friday, the judge said that air travel is "a high-pressure environment", with no ready means of escape for the molestation victim.
She, however, noted that "no intrusion of private parts" was involved in the case.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim had earlier said in her submissions that following take-off, Vijayan had an argument with another crew member, as he had refused to pay after ordering food and red wine.
DPP Lim said it was the carrier's policy to collect payment before heating up its passengers' orders.
The stewardess, who cannot be named due to a gag order, stepped in to defuse the situation and agreed to serve Vijayan his order before he paid for it.
Despite this, he continued to demand her attention by repeatedly pressing the call light even though she had to attend to another passenger who was feeling faint at the time.
Her colleague tried to attend to Vijayan but he insisted on talking to "that female steward".
The DPP said: "According to the victim, the situation was 'very urgent' because there was a medical emergency that required her to page for medical assistance... and a drunk passenger that required her attention.
"After a nurse came forward to assist in the medical emergency, the victim attended to the accused.
"She knelt down to be at his eye level, placed her arm on the arm rest and told the accused firmly not to press the call light again."
The court heard that Vijayan then told the woman that she was "so beautiful" and molested her.
The stewardess told the plane captain about what happened and asked him to alert the airport police. She later submitted a report to Scoot about the incident.
During the trial, Vijayan, who is represented by lawyers Ramesh Selvaraj and Nicholas Kam, denied molesting the woman.
Instead, he claimed that she had fabricated the whole incident to suppress his complaint against her colleague about the "poor service" he had received.
In mitigation, Mr Ramesh told Judge Salina that their client's case involved "mostly fleeting touches".
He also said Vijayan had worked in Singapore since 2004 and this was his first brush with the law.
Mr Ramesh added that his client intends to appeal against the conviction, and Vijayan was then offered bail of $15,000.
For each count of molestation, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined or caned.