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Opinion

Customs officer charged with sexually abusing Uzbek nationals forced to retire

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The government has forcibly removed a customs superintendent stationed at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for allegedly sexually abusing two female passengers from Ukbekistan, a Finance Ministry official said.

“The superintendent was suspended first for his alleged misconduct and then, on December 21, he received the mandatory retirement notice under Fundamental Rule (FR) 56 (j),” the official said, requesting anonymity. FR 56 (j) deals with the premature retirement of senior officials.

The action was taken against the officer on the basis of an incident that occurred on the night of May 2, 2019. That night, two Uzbek female passengers arrived from Tashkent. One of them was taken out of the CCTV coverage area upon reaching the green channel and was detained for an hour. He was later allowed to leave as there was no seizure of any contraband, the official said.

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The second Uzbek female passenger was similarly detained for more than 30 minutes and then she, too, was released without any contraband seizures, he said.

“Both passengers were confined alone in a room with the superintendent without the presence of a female customs officer and both passengers were allegedly subjected to sexual harassment and abuse,” he said.

Later, one of the passengers testified before the Internal Complaints Committee (CPI) and identified the officer, accusing him of abuse and obscene sexual acts in the preventive room, he added.

“Based on the investigation and analysis of the video images, the official received mandatory retirement. However, investigations and criminal proceedings will continue, ”he said.

The Department of Revenue (DoR), a branch of the Union Ministry of Finance that also controls the customs department, suspended the official while the matter was investigated under the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace (Prevention , Prohibition and Remedy) 2013. “The committee conducted detailed investigations and ultimately recommended his mandatory retirement under FR 56 (j) on charges of ‘gross misconduct’, ‘sexual harassment of a serious nature’ in addition to ‘acute adverse impact in the image of the department ‘and degradation of the morale of the service officials, ”said the official.

“Taking a holistic view of the officer’s record, the committee concluded that his (accused) conduct is such that his continued service would be a threat to public service and detrimental to the public interest,” he said.

Notwithstanding the mandatory withdrawal order, departmental investigations and criminal proceedings will continue, if applicable, against the superintendent, he said. “The disciplinary authority may take appropriate action when the charges are shown to be that mandatory retirement under FR 56 (j) is not a punitive measure,” he added.

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