Solicitor General Tushar Mehta Thursday told the High Court of Bombay at Goa that not granting the Goa government the leave to appeal against the acquittal of journalist Tarun Tejpal in a case of sexual assault, may not even be an option.
“In a matter like this I am tempted to persuade your lordships to grant leave (to appeal against acquittal). Your lordships have seen the way in which the trial court has proceeded leaves much to be desired. We don’t deal with our daughters like this. At least the judiciary is not expected to,” Mehta told a division bench of Justice M S Sonak and Justice M S Jawalkar.
The Goa government had earlier this month carried out amendments to its appeal against the acquittal of Tejpal in a 2013 case of rape and sexual assault that took place at a prominent hotel in Goa. Tejpal, former editor-in-chief, was accused of sexually assaulting a then colleague in an elevator of the hotel on November 7, 2013 and November 8, 2013. On May 21, Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi acquitted him of all charges.
The Goa government, in its amended appeal filed in the High Court, had stated that the trial court which acquitted Tejpal on May 21, had disbelieved the woman who accused him of the offence “on the basis of a conception of how a victim is expected to behave while being sexually assaulted”. This finding of the court, the state government said, was “unsustainable in law and is coloured by prejudice and patriarchy.”
Mehta said on Thursday, “The way the learned (trial) judge has proceeded, I think non-grant of leave may not even be an option. We’ll be failing in our duty.”
Tejpal’s counsel Amit Desai, however, sought an adjournment informing the court that the advocate assisting him in the case had suffered a bereavement on Wednesday. Desai said that he had just been instructed in the matter. At the last hearing, Tejpal was represented by senior counsel Kapil Sibal.
“Won’t it be better if we consider grant of leave? Leave is not the end of the matter,” Justice Sonak said.
Desai, however, requested the court to grant him time to prepare. Mehta said that in case of bereavement, no objection can be raised. The court will hear the case further on August 10.