Former Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal on Tuesday moved the Bombay High Court seeking an “in-camera” hearing of the Goa government’s petition challenging his acquittal in a 2013 rape case, reported Bar and Bench.
Tejpal was accused of raping a junior colleague in an elevator in 2013. A sessions court acquitted him in the case on May 21. On May 25, the Goa government moved the Bombay High Court against the verdict.
Senior Advocate Amit Desai, appearing for Tejpal, said such a request has been placed before the court because of the sensitivity of the allegations against his client. “This is not adversarial, I believe,” Desai added.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Goa government, opposed the request. “The country has a right to know what happened with the girl, who came with a complaint, precise facts, corroborative evidence,” Mehta said.
The court asked Mehta to examine Tejpal’s “in-camera” hearing request and respond on August 31, when the case will be heard next.
After the court’s observations, both Desai and Mehta requested that the case be heard through video conference as they live outside Goa.
The bench, however, said physical hearings will start from next week. It asked the two parties to approach the chief justice of the Bombay High Court with a joint request for virtual hearing.
In its order on May 21, the district and sessions court of Mapusa in Goa said the complainant had not shown the “kind of normative behaviour” expected from her, among other things. In her 527-page judgement, Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi noted that Tejpal was granted “benefit of doubt” in the absence of corroborative evidence to support the allegations made by the complainant.
In its appeal, the Goa government had said that the trial court’s judgement was “coloured by prejudice and patriarchy”.
The case has its origins in November 2013, when a company owned by Tejpal and some others organised an event in Goa called THINK fest, featuring discussions with leading figures. The 2013 edition was of particular interest as Hollywood actor Robert De Niro was a guest.
The complainant was then a journalist at Tehelka and had been given the task of taking care of De Niro and his daughter. The complainant alleged that Tejpal, who was then the magazine’s editor-in-chief, assaulted her twice during the festival. Both times, the assault occurred inside elevators. The first assault took place on November 7 and the second on the following day.
The woman did not immediately complain to Tehelka’s management, but had on November 18, 2013, sent a detailed account of the incidents to Managing Director Shoma Chaudhary.
Following this, Tejpal sent two emails expressing his regret at the incident: one to the complainant personally and the other to the staff of Tehelka.
After the matter became public, the Goa Police took suo motu cognisance of it and registered a first information report. The police then took statements from the complainant and also got a magistrate to record her statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
It took almost eight years for the trial to conclude. The complainant was cross-examined only in 2019, six years after the incident.