THE GOA bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday declined to restrain the trial court from proceeding with framing of charges against journalist Tarun Tejpal, who had challenged the lower court saying the case was not of rape but “false accusation of rape”. With Tejpal having exhausted probably his last remedy, the stage is now set for formal framing of charges on September 28. The only relief Justice Prithviraj Chavan offered Tejpal at this stage is deferring examination of the first witness to a date after November 1, when the higher court will hear his appeal.
The former editor is accused of sexually assaulting a woman colleague at Hotel Grand Hyatt on the night of November 7, 2013. Aman Lekhi, senior counsel from New Delhi appearing for Tejpal, argued that the fight is “asymmetrical”, and made a case that the “state has aligned with the victim, while the reputation of the accused is being systematically destroyed”.
Lekhi maintained that the matter does not stand fit for trial, and Tejpal should be relieved from undergoing the “trauma of a trial”, as there is “no sufficient ground to proceed” and the “accusations made against the petitioner (Tejpal) is fully without foundation”. Arguing that this is “not a paradigm case of rape”, Lekhi told the court, “…Here, it is a peculiar scenario — as far as the fight is concerned, it’s asymmetrical. The person has no means to actually contest and show that the acquisition is false.”
Stating that this is “not a case of misogynistic, predatory male imposing himself on a woman”, he argued that the required balance between the victim and the accused “is non-existent and goes completely in favour of the lady”.
While the prosecution alleged that the defence is using delaying tactics, Lekhi argued that he was denied CCTV footage and other evidence to fight the allegation “even after repeated…request”. He stressed that the trial cannot begin until the High Court examines the “movement of the victim” just before she entered the lift, and her body language after she exits the lift.
Public Prosecutor S Lotlikar said, “We are on a notice before the court. Charge will be framed, there is a mandate under the law that it should be completed within a stipulated time…. It was earlier meant to be concluded in eight months or earlier. We have now at least three years in this. There is no justification for a stay order.”
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