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Whistleblower AI staffer hopes for justice after Swapna's arrest


Trivandrum Airport _file


Thiruvananthapuram: After five long years of knocking on all doors and spending huge amounts of money to fight his case to keep his reputation intact, a whistleblower Air India staffer here is thanking God for giving him the strength to fight a fabricated sexual harassment case masterminded by the prime accused in the gold smuggling case.

L.S. Sibu, who was a union leader of Air India and was working as Officer-Apron in the Ground Services Department, Trivandrum in 2014, when he brought to the attention of the CBI, the Central Vigilance Commission and the Prime Minister about financial irregularities at Trivandrum Airport.

Starting then, Sibu's life took a turn for the worse, when he was transferred to Hyderabad effective April 2015. He had to wait till June 2015 to know the reason why he was transferred and was shocked to learn that 17 female employees had in a letter complained of sexual harassment by him.

Sibu was in for more shock when the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of Air India gave him a copy of the complaint in November 2015 and found a prima facie case against him.

Sibu filed a complaint before the Commissioner of Police, Thiruvananthapuram in January, 2016.

After preliminary investigation it was revealed that the complaint was false, fabricated and forged.

Following the recommendation of the investigation officer. a case was registered in FIR 381/2016 at Valiyathura Police Station and it was entrusted to the Trivandrum District Crime Branch for a further probe.

Air India and the members of the ICC filed four separate writ petitions before the Kerala High Court challenging the police investigation in this case.

In all the four writ petitions the order was in favour of Sibu.

The Crime Branch investigation unearthed evidence against Binoy Jacob, a former vice-president of Air India-SATS and Swapna Suresh - one of the prime accused in the gold smuggling case.

But strangely the investigation did not progress any further and the investigation officer filed a report in the trial court which said that no evidence has been unearthed in the investigation and thus put an end to the probe.

Unfazed by the volte face, Sibu approached the High Court and challenged the report of the ICC.

In the meantime, the High court had also directed the ICC of Air India to conduct an enquiry whether the signatories in the complaint are the authors of the complaint.

But Air India did not follow the interim order of the court, instead Air India filed a writ appeal against the order of the single judge.

The writ appeal was disposed off in October 2018, directing the ICC to conduct the enquiry by summoning the female employees and taking their individual statements and to conclude the same within six months.

The newly constituted ICC conducted the enquiry and submitted its report in December 2018. In February 2019, Sibu was informed that due to absence of sufficient evidence before the committee in support of the complaint, it is treated as closed.

Sibu again approached the High Court and obtained an order for further investigation through the state Crime Branch in August 2019.

During the investigation, three top Air India officials were quizzed by the police team.

Swapna's statement was also recorded where she confessed to her role along with Binoy Jacob. After that the investigation did not progress due to the influence of Swapna in the Government.

But after she was arrested in the gold smuggling case by the NIA from Bengaluru, early this month, the Crime Branch investigation is also in fast track, which was confirmed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Sibu told IANS that the biggest source of his fight was his conscience, the support of his wife and daughter.

"The fight for justice will continue, even when I know very well that justice delayed is justice denied. But, I will continue, as I lost my career, reputation and all my savings on court cases," said Sibu, who is currently posted in Hyderabad.

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