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Tejpal order needs ‘deeper scrutiny’; HC allows appeal against acquittal

Panaji, April 23, 2022- Stating that the order by a trial court acquitting former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal needed “deeper scrutiny and reappreciation”, the Bombay High Court in Goa on Saturday granted the state government leave to appeal against the former journalist’s acquittal in a 2013 rape case.

“We believe that deeper scrutiny and reappreciation may be necessary of the evidence of the respondent’s SMS, WhatsApp, and email messages sent to the victim. This evidence has to be evaluated from the context of corroboration of the victim’s testimony in the matter,” Justices M.S. Sonak and R.N. Laddha said in their order.

The order also said that there was need to revisit the inferences made by the Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi in the order, passed last year, about the conduct of the victim.

“The inference from the victim’s conduct of consulting some lawyers before lodging her complaint may also require a revisit. Finally, the contention about the alleged admissions in the messages or the proper scope of such statements also requires consideration at this stage, we might have only preferred to record that a prima facie case has been made out and arguable issues arise in the matter,” the court said.

Tejpal, who had challenged the state government’s decision to appeal against his acquittal, claimed procedural lapses on part of the prosecution in their appeal application.

“Based on the material on record, we do not think any case is made out to infer non-application of mind rendering such a decision a nullity. Though valid in some circumstances, the contention about haste and the inference of non-application of mind cannot be mechanically drawn in all events and purposes,” the High Court maintained, rejecting Tejpal’s counsel Amit Desai’s contention.

Tejpal was charged against under sections 376 (rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement) 354A (sexual harassment) and 354B (criminal assault), of the Indian Penal Code, after a junior colleague accused him of rape at a five star resort in Goa in 2013.

On May 21, he was acquitted by the trial court in Goa citing “benefit of doubt”, following which an appeal was filed by the state government.  (Agency)

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