Hours after the high court postponed hearing his bail plea to March 4, former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal issued his first statement from inside Vasco jail, accusing the police of having filed a “highly spurious” chargesheet, from which “the most crucial piece of evidence, the CCTV footage of the incident”, was missing.
Goa Police on Monday charged Tejpal with raping a former junior colleague inside a hotel lift in November 2013. Tejpal has already spent 80 days in custody.
In the statement — sent through Tejpal’s daughter Tiya after Tejpal, his lawyers and his family went through the contents of the chargesheet — Tejpal has claimed that police officers had admitted to him that they had no case; however, the investigating officer was pursuing a “political” agenda.
“I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the Goa Police, clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and 8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as per the chargesheet) of contested time which can be brought to light via the CCTV footage,” Tejpal said.
“The Goa Police know their fabricated case will collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the ‘testimony’ of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa Police filed its FIR under draconian provisions.
“As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being ‘held’ in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The fact is most of the officers in the Crime Branch know there is no case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating the principle of police neutrality.”
Tejpal has consistently asked police to release the CCTV footage — even before the police officially announced on November 23 that there were no cameras inside the hotel lift. During bail hearings in the lower court, his lawyers repeatedly asked the court to allow them to look at all the footage.
Recalling his demands for the footage to be released, Tejpal said in the statement, “In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged ‘the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed’. I said this at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what had happened.”
Tejpal said police had violated “due process” by not making “all collected evidence available to the accused at the time of filing the chargesheet”. He said “this duplicity is in keeping with the sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued”.
“I’m afraid”, Tejpal has said, “what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.”
Officers close to the investigation said the footage was not annexed with the chargesheet because it would have revealed the identity of the victim. They said the chargesheet contains 204 colour pages of “snapshots” that were pertinent to the investigation.
An officer said, “Investigators have collected all relevant footage and submitted it as material evidence to the court with a note saying it is only for the court’s copy of the charges set. It now becomes court property. The court will decide if it wants to release the footage to the accused.”
The officer added, “It is not binding on an investigation agency to show every second of footage in a matter of this nature. The footage that was shown to him was part of investigation. He is in a position to contest it during the trial.”
Tejpal’s lawyers have moved an application in a magistrate’s court in Goa seeking access to the footage. This matter is likely to be heard on Wednesday. Tejpal is also supposed to present himself before the court of the judicial magistrate first class at 2 pm on Wednesday, where he will be asked if he is okay with the chargesheet.
Tejpal was allowed to be present in the high court on Tuesday for his bail hearing. However, his senior counsel Amit Desai excused himself because of a “personal bereavement”, and his legal team asked for the matter to be posted for Friday.
But Justice Mridula Bhatkar scheduled the hearing for two weeks later, saying the circumstances for hearing the bail petition had changed. “The prosecution did not disclose the fact that the chargesheet was to be filed yesterday and that the investigation is over,” Justice Bhatkar said.
Tejpal spoke briefly to reporters, alleging that the chargesheet and investigation was “political vendetta”. He sat next to his wife Geetan while being briefed by his lawyers. His daughter Tiya showed him family photographs on an iPad.