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‘No in-camera hearing for appeal against Tarun Tejpal for now but…’: Bombay HC

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PANAJI: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday will on November 16 hear arguments on the maintainability of the appeal filed by the Goa government against the acquittal of former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal in a case of rape and sexual harassment of a junior colleague.

On Wednesday, Tejpal told the court of justices Revati Dere and MS Jawalkar that he was challenging the maintainability of the plea and also pressing his application that the appeal hearings be heard in-camera and not in open court as has been the case so far.

However, the court was not inclined to consider the application for the in-camera hearing “at this stage” and decided to hear arguments on the appeal’s maintainability on November 16.

In his written response, Tejpal’s lawyer Amit Desai said, “We have raised that squarely the maintainability of the appeal is defective, not in consonance with the requirement of 378 CrPC,” Desai said, referring to the criminal procedure code that relates to the filing of appeals in case of acquittal.

Desai said the appeal was filed prematurely even before a copy of the written order of the trial court judgement was made available and the prosecution bypassed due procedures in filing its appeal in the rush.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who is arguing the case on behalf of the prosecution, told the court that there were no irregularities in the filing of the appeal and that he will provide a detailed response on Mehta, the central government’s second most-senior law officer, also reiterated his opposition to an in-camera hearing and went on to criticise the May 21 verdict by additional sessions judge Kshama Joshi, arguing that it was archaic, belonged to the 5th century and was deeply unfair to the survivor who he said, was subjected to naming and shaming in the judgment.

The high court, which made it reluctance clear to go for in-camera proceedings, however, ordered the lawyers not to read out the sensitive portions of the trial court judgement or statements by witnesses and the rape survivor in open court but told them to restrict themselves to written arguments when it comes to sensitive portions.

Tejpal was accused of raping a junior colleague in an elevator of a five-star hotel in Goa during the THiNK festival in November 2013. The complainant alleged that Tejpal raped her in a lift of the hotel on November 7 and attempted to assault her again on November 8. Tejpal, who refuted the charges in court, was acquitted by the fast-track court which delivered its verdict this year.

In her ruling, the judge gave Tejpal, who faced charges of sections 376 (rape), 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (criminal assault with intent to disrobe a woman), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code, the benefit of the doubt and acquitted him on the ground that the prosecution did not produce sufficient evidence to back up its charges.

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