The Bombay High Court’s Goa bench on Friday rejected the bail plea of former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman colleague in a hotel in Goa. The court said that the alleged offence was of a “very serious nature”, and that with the main witnesses, many of whom are former employees of the magazine, yet to be examined, his appeal fails on all parameters.
The court dismissed the defence’s submission that since there has neither been death or physical injury of any kind, the offence must not be taken as grave for considering bail. It observed that the definition of rape under the amended law does not make any distinction in the gravity of the offence if no physical injury is caused or in the lack of penile insertion.
In his order, Justice U V Bakre contended with Special Public Prosecutor Saresh Lotlikar, saying “that hair splitting distinction” on the evidence cannot be made at this stage of bail hearing. Taking Tejpal’s apology as “formal” and confessional in nature, the court disregarded the defence’s appeal that the “victim committed a sting operation and emotionally blackmailed (Tejpal) to make alleged confessions”.
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The court took into record the prosecution’s submission that “there was an offer to bribe the victim” and influence her decision after Tejpal’s daughter visited the victim’s mother following media reports.
The hearing saw the defence picking contradictions by presenting “chart of comparative analysis” in the victim’s statements, one an email between her and prosecution witness Ishan Tankha on November 16, her email of November 18 sent to Shoma Chaudhari and statement made before the probe team on November 26, and before the Judicial Magistrate, Panaji on November 27. The defence also showed sections of CCTV footage from Grand Hyatt, Bambolim, submitting that “the footage does not corroborate the version given by the victim”.
The order said the defence lawyers “wanted the court to believe the prosecution case is hit by serious infirmities intense and shocking improvements, embellishments and exaggerations due to which the statements made by the victim do not at all inspire confidence”.
The order said senior counsel Amit Desai argued that the incident, as far as alleged rape is concerned, “would only amount to an attempt to commit the offence since nothing actually is stated to have been done, except an attempt”. The defence said there is “volte-face” in the victim’s statements and that the witnesses’s statements reveal they were informed only about Tejpal attempting to undress the victim and kissing her on the mouth. The defence chose to challenge the “identical line to line” statements of Ishan Tankha, Shaugat Dasgupta and G Vishnu. Justice Bakre observed that “at this stage, it is premature to say there are infirmities of shocking nature which would drive this court to believe that the version of rape given by the victim is false”.