The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Top woman officer heads harass probe
Air Marshal Padma: Tough job

Bangalore, Sept. 20: A new court of inquiry headed by Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay, the airstrike wing’s seniormost woman officer, will look into charges of sexual harassment levelled by Flying Officer Anjali Gupta against three of her seniors.

The inquiry will begin here tomorrow.

Gupta had sent her complaint to Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi on April 7.

Sources in the IAF said the five-member court would comprise three women officers from the force and one from a non-government organisation. The fifth, also from the IAF, will be the lone male officer.

The new court will replace the one headed by Air Vice-Marshal V.R. Iyer ' this court had two women officers of the rank of squadron leader ' set up in May.

“The air headquarters has taken a decision to appoint a new court headed by the Air Marshal, who is the seniormost woman officer, because the charges were made against senior officers. The single civilian woman from an NGO will be on the panel in line with parameters set by the Supreme Court,” the sources said.

The inquiry will be held at the IAF Command Hospital here.

The previous court had examined documents at the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) campus relating to the case while Gupta was being tried just a stone’s throw away at a general court martial (GCM) on seven charges that included insubordination, indiscipline and defalcation.

But the GCM, headed by Group Captain V. Ganesh, was adjourned indefinitely on September 12 after one of the four members of jury suffered a cardiac disorder.

In May, the IAF had set up the panel to probe Gupta’s charges against three senior officers at the ASTE ' Air Commodore Anil Chopra, who was then the commandant there, Wing Commander V.C. Cyriac, the chief administrative officer, and Squadron Leader R.S. Choudhary, an adjutant.

The panel, with a brief to submit its report by May 9, however, could not even meet Gupta. She first opted out on health grounds and subsequently preferred to concentrate on the GCM, which began on April 12.

The sources said more than a dozen witnesses were cross-examined at the GCM through the 150-odd sittings held till September 12.

The IAF had placed the woman officer under “close arrest” from April 8 to May 24 to prevent her from harming herself. She later returned to the officers’ mess at the ASTE after a series of medical and mental evaluation tests by doctors at the Command Hospital here.

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