Bombay HC to Hear Goa Govt’s Plea Today Challenging Tarun Tejpal’s Acquittal in Rape Case

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The Goa bench of the Bombay high court will on Wednesday hear a petition filed by the state government against former Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal’s acquittal in a rape case.

On May 21, sessions judge Kshama Joshi acquitted Tejpal in the case where he was accused of sexually assaulting his then woman colleague in a lift of a five-star hotel in Goa in November 2013 when they were attending an event. The trial court in its judgement questioned the woman’s conduct, noting she did not exhibit any kind of “normative behaviour” such as trauma and shock which a victim of sexual assault might plausibly show.

The Goa government later filed an appeal against the acquittal. In its amended appeal, which will be heard on June 2, the state government said the trial court had “lost sight” of the fact that it was Tejpal who was an accused and was on trial, and not the victim.

“The entire judgement focuses on indicting the complainant rather than trying to ascertain the culpable role of the accused,” the appeal said. The finding of the trial court on how a woman, who has been a victim of sexual assault, normally behaves is “unsustainable in law and is coloured by prejudice and patriarchy”, it said.

In its appeal, the prosecution sought the HC to expunge several portions of the judgment that cast aspersions not only on the prosecution’s case, but also on the victim. “This fact, accompanied by other attendant circumstances, clearly makes out a case for retrial in accordance with law,” the prosecution said.

Referring to portions in the judgment which noted that the CCTV footage and photographs from the event show the victim cheerful and smiling, the government in its appeal said the observations “betray a complete lack of understanding of the post-trauma behaviour of victims”. They (observations of trial court) also demonstrate complete ignorance of the law and also several directions and guidelines passed by the Supreme Court (on how to handle such cases), it said.

The victim in her statement to police and to the court had said that while she was traumatised and shocked after the incident, due to professional commitments she had continued working at the event, the appeal further said. On the trial court refusing to accept the apology e- mail sent by Tejpal to the victim, the government said the court has not given any cogent finding as to how a person of the education, age and maturity of the accused, who was in a position of power over the victim, could in any manner be pressured into apologising.

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