Bank Executive Accused of Urinating on a Fellow Airline Passenger
The Indian police on Saturday arrested a top executive of a U.S.-based banking company in connection with an episode in late November in which the executive is alleged to have urinated on another passenger on an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi.
The executive, Shankar Mishra — who was recently fired from his job as a vice president of the Indian subsidiary of Wells Fargo — faces charges under several Indian laws, including sexual harassment, obscenity and insulting the modesty of a woman. He has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days, according to local media reports.
News of the episode, which became public after the airline filed a police complaint on Wednesday, has prompted outrage on Indian social media. The delay between the event and the complaint has also raised questions about how Air India handled the situation.
According to a statement from the victim, a 72-year-old woman whose name the police did not release, Mr. Mishra appeared to be drunk on the flight where it happened, in business class.
In a complaint written to the chairman of Air India on Nov. 27, the day after the flight arrived in New Delhi, the victim demanded the immediate arrest of Mr. Mishra upon landing. But against the victim’s wishes, the plane’s crew brought the passenger before her. He apologized and begged to be spared for the sake of his family.
“In my already distraught state, I was further disoriented by being made to confront and negotiate with the perpetrator of the horrific incident at close quarters,” she wrote in the statement to Air India’s chairman, which was included in the police complaint filed by the airline.
That was not the only issue she had with how the airline had handled the matter. She said that airline staff had refused to touch her urine-soaked shoes and bags, merely spraying them with disinfectant. They provided airline pajamas and socks to change into, she said, but initially refused her request for a different seat.
After the flight landed, Mr. Mishra agreed to pay for the woman’s belongings to be dry-cleaned, according to a statement issued by his lawyers. They said a WhatsApp chat between the two showed that Mr. Mishra had her clothes and bags cleaned on Nov. 28 and delivered to her on Nov. 30.
According to the statement, her remaining grievance was with the airline, not Mr. Mishra. It is not clear why Air India waited weeks to file a complaint with the police.
The police in New Delhi, where the complaint was filed, said that Mr. Mishra’s home in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, was locked when officers arrived there on Friday in connection with the case. They said that his relatives had not been cooperating with investigators. Mr. Mishra was found and arrested in the southern state of Karnataka on Saturday.
A representative of Air India declined to comment past saying that the company was cooperating with law enforcement officials.
Late on Friday, Wells Fargo said in a statement that the company held its employees to the highest standards of professional and personal behavior, and that the person involved in the case had been fired.
Also on Friday, India’s top aviation regulatory body issued an advisory warning that airline companies needed to deal strictly with unruly passengers and to promptly file complaints with the aviation authorities, and that noncompliance would invite enforcement action.