The Supreme Court Monday rejected former Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal’s plea to quash the charges against him in a case of rape, assault and sexual harassment of an ex-colleague and asked him to face trial.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai directed the trial court in Goa, where the case is pending, to complete proceedings in six months. The court said that “the charges are serious” and that “there is already delay in the trial.”
The bench said that the case related to an offence which was “morally abhorrent” in nature.
Tejpal had initially moved the Bombay High Court which declined to interfere in the matter.
He then approached the Supreme Court claiming that he had been framed and sought to rely on CCTV footage of the hotel where the alleged incident took place as well as messages exchanged with the woman to argue his case.
On August 6, when the court reserved its order on Tejpal’s plea, his counsel urged the court to look at the CCTV footage from the hotel lobby, showing the woman emerging from the lift in which she was allegedly assaulted.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh who appeared for him contended that “her conduct does not support her statement that says she ran out of the lift. The footage shows no such attempt. Anybody can make allegations of this nature and get away.”
But the argument did not cut ice with the court which said “this is not the stage to consider all this.” Singh argued that the charges were “tailor-made” against the former editor.
The woman had accused Tejpal of sexually assaulting her inside a lift at a five-star hotel in Goa during an event in 2013. Tejpal is currently on bail in the case and has denied the allegations.
He was arrested on November 30, 2013, by the crime branch after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the court.
The Goa Police claimed there was ample material in the form of “contemporaneous” WhatsApp messages and e-mails which showed that the Tehelka magazine founder should face trial.
The trial court framed charges against Tejpal under various sections of the Indian Penal Code: Sections 341 (wrongful restraint); 342 (wrongful confinement); 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty); 354A (sexual harassment); 354B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe); 376 (2)(f) (person in position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376(2)(k) (rape by person in position of control).
Of the 155 witnesses cited in the chargesheet, only the victim has been examined until date with the next trial date expected to allow for cross examination. North Goa district Magistrate Vijaya Pol fixed September 23 as the date where the prosecution has to report on the Supreme Court verdict. The date of the trial’s resumption will be decided subsequently.
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