The Goa government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that the sessions court’s verdict acquitting journalist Tarun Tejpal in a 2013 sexual assault case was “retrograde” and “fit for fifth century”, reported PTI.
Tejpal, the former editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, was charged with raping a colleague in an elevator in 2013. A sessions court had acquitted him in the case in May this year. The Goa government had moved the Bombay High Court challenging the verdict.
In its order on May 21, the Mapusa district and sessions court in Goa had held that the complainant had not shown the “kind of normative behaviour” expected from a “victim of sexual assault”. The court had granted Tejpal the “benefit of doubt” in the absence of corroborative evidence to support the allegations made by the complainant.
In its appeal challenging the acquittal, the Goa government had said that the trial court’s judgement was “coloured by prejudice and patriarchy”.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Goa government, said that the complainant in the case had been “named and shamed”.
Meanwhile, Tejpal’s lawyer Amit Desai had requested the court to consider two applications. The first plea challenged the maintainability of the Goa government’s appeal against the acquittal. In this application, Desai told the High Court that the public prosecutor did not obtain permission from the Goa government to file the plea challenging the acquittal.
The second plea sought an in-camera hearing of the matter. The Goa government has opposed this application.
The bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and MS Jawalkar will hear the matter next on November 16.
The case dates back to November 2013, when a company owned by Tejpal and some others organised an event in Goa called THINK fest, featuring discussions with prominent personalities. Hollywood actor Robert De Niro was invited as one of the guests.
The complainant, then a journalist at Tehelka, had been asked to take 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 took place 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 on November 18, 2013, she sent a detailed account of the incidents to the magazine’s 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 and registered a first information report. The trial took almost eight years to conclude. The complainant was cross-examined only in 2019, six years after the incident.