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‘Dignity expected during reading evidence in rape case’: HC on Tarun Tejpal’s plea for in-camera hearing

While the court had rejected Tarun Tejpal’s application on November 24, it had said the reasons for its decision would be recorded separately. The court’s detailed order was made available on Monday.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Porvorim |
Updated: November 30, 2021 6:00:11 am
Tarun TejpalTarun Tejpal (file photo)

Dignity and sensitivity are expected from all parties, specifically while reading evidence related to rape cases, the Bombay High Court observed last week while rejecting plea by former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal seeking in-camera proceedings.

Tejpal had sought in-camera hearings by the high court after the Goa government filed an appeal against his acquittal in the 2013 rape case against him.

Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague at a hotel in Goa in 2013. He was acquitted by a sessions court on May 21 this year, with the judge saying that there wasn’t “enough evidence to warrant a conviction”.

“In proceedings such as these i.e. rape cases in general, it is expected that all parties conduct themselves with dignity, sobriety and some sensitivity that is required, particularly, whilst reading evidence pertaining to intimate details,” the High Court said in a 23-page order of November 24. The detailed order was made available on Monday.

“This, we think is not too much to expect from the advocates appearing for the respective parties. Maintaining decorum in the courtroom is not merely a superficial means of protecting the image of lawyers and judges – but it is absolutely essential to the administration of justice,” the court said.

Turning down the application, a division bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Justice M S Jawalkar said that Tejpal’s application for in-camera proceedings was “devoid of merits”.

In August, Tejpal had filed the application asking the HC to hold the proceedings in-camera under Section 327 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) as it would protect both the parties — the accused and the woman. Under the section, a judge can decide to hold proceedings in-camera based on the nature and sensitivity of the case.

Tejpal’s counsel Amit Desai had argued that keeping the proceedings open to the public and the media will restrict him from making certain submissions over fears that those may be published.

The judges, however, said the argument was not justified. “There is no embargo or restriction on the applicant to argue his case freely nor his right to argue his case can be curtailed,” the court said.

Arguing for the Goa government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had vehemently opposed in-camera hearings and said that protection under Section 327 can only be given in cases of an inquiry or a trial. “The present proceedings can neither be said to be an inquiry nor a trial, by any stretch of imagination,” the judges said.

Desai also informed the court last week he had instructions to challenge the High Court’s decision, rejecting his application for in-camera hearing at the Supreme Court.

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