A birthday cake that reached post midnight,a flight that was almost missed,and an argument over which is a better market in Goa. The discussions were left unfinished,after various stakeholders in the Tarun Tejpal anticipatory bail case left a Goan court room after spending four long hours waiting to hear the order.
The arguments and counter arguments were heard from 10 am,with the order expected around 4.30 pm. As that dragged on till 8.05 pm,the courtroom was the subject of passionate debates,including arguments over the finer points of the case.
The first bunch to arrive were the reporters. The TV journalists stood by the aisle,since it was easier for them to run to their cameras parked outside the moment the order was read.
At 4.30 pm,Tejpals family arrived,taking the third last row,at a distance from the media. The Crime Branch team followed soon after the six lawyers of Tejpal,led by Geeta Luthra,also arrived at this time. While two were from Goa,the rest had flown down from Delhi. Public prosecutor Saresh Lotlikar looked assured as he made his entry.
The court was full now,but judge Anuja Prabhudesai was in her chamber studying both the arguments. Known to be extremely meticulous,and also known among local advocates for the length of her orders,she took her time.
Court clerks said she began studying the arguments and the judgments cited by the two sides at 2.30 pm. The dictation of 25 pages of her order would finally continue till 8 pm. She called for a change of stenographer at 5.30 pm to give relief to the first clerk.
Inside the court room,some junior women lawyers left after waiting for an hour saying they had to catch a bus and the evening traffic was difficult on a Saturday.
A reporter who had booked a flight for 10 pm started to wonder if he would reach. An advocate complained about Goan cases not getting the same attention.
It was past 6 pm,and TV channels that had been running arrest imminent flashes started taking them off. Tejpals daughter,who through the day stood like a rock guarding Tejpal,walked up to the advocates to take stock.
The first signs of anxiety started showing on the faces of relatives. On the other side,the Crime Branch team started opening up to reporters,whom they had been avoiding. Some Goan reporters complained about a news channel reporting Tejpals arrest even while the judge was in her chamber.
At the lawyers table,a junior defence lawyer in the Tejpal camp offered Lotlikar a seat in the front. Sir,you are senior, he said. Lotlikar didnt take up the offer. But an hour later,when cold water bottles arrived for the prosecution and investigating teams,he shared the same with the defence team.
In another corner,seeing a relaxed Geeta Luthra,a TV journalist took a seat next to hers. A counsel began to object,then gave up.
Conversations veered off to which were better Android phones or iPhones even as phone batteries drained and a few went looking for plug points. An advocate called up his wife to cancel a movie plan. This was far,far exciting.
Soon Marie biscuits surfaced,with Crime Branch officers sharing a few. The courts only staff room loo was taken over by those in the courtroom. As the clerk said,You have been waiting long. You are staff now.
Around 7:30 pm,there was a false alarm that the order would be out any time. It was just 5 minutes after Investigating Officer Sunita Sawant had shut her eyes for a few peaceful winks that the door to judges chamber opened. Everyone stood up and,soon after the judgment was passed,everyone went their separate ways.