A Mapusa sessions court on Thursday directed framing of all rape charges against Tarun Tejpal, former editor-in-chief of Tehelka. On September 28, Tejpal stands to be slapped with nine charges, of which five are of rape including sections introduced following amendments to the IPC. Tejpal is accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague inside a lift at Hotel Grand Hyatt on the night of November 7, 2013.
“The court has directed that charges should be framed against the accused for the offences alleged in the case. In addition, the court has added IPC section 354b (assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe),” said public prosecutor Francisco Tavora.
In its 48-page order, the court has detailed previous judgments before arriving at the decision that Tejpal needs to go on trial for all charges.
Initially, Tejpal was booked under 354-A (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment), 376 (rape), 376(2)(k) IPC (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman) by the Crime Branch. Sections 341 and 342 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 376 (2)(f) (person in position of trust or authority over women, committing rape of such women), 376C (sexual intercourse by person in authority) and 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) were added later.
The hearings took place over three years, with the defence claiming material evidence. It was only in June that the prosecution asked for an additional IPC section of 354b.
When asked if they were satisfied with the order, Tavora said, “The court has considered all our arguments. It has made reference to whatever precedence it could rely on. We had to establish a prima facie case and this is more than a prima facie case.”
The prosecution has listed witness statements, digital evidence in terms of letter of apology written by the accused, including telephonic chats, and the hotel’s CCTV footage.
This is the first case in recent times in which the probe has relied on “position of trust” as a crucial aspect in an allegation of rape. The victim’s statement that she trusted her employer was emphasised in the chargesheet and in all the arguments over three years.
Chargesheeted on February 17, 2014, by the Goa Crime Branch, Tejpal will stand trial once the charges are officially framed at 2.30 pm on September 28.