Tehelka case: Tejpal awaits decision on bail plea, says complainant not credible

Written by Smita Nair | Panaji | Updated: Nov 30 2013, 21:25pm hrs
A Goa court gave relief to the founder-editor of Tehelka magazine, Tarun Tejpal, barring the police from arresting him until hearing resumes Saturday morning for allegedly raping a colleague. Tejpals lawyer said the new rape law was draconian, and questioned the credibility of the complainant.

The court order came at the end of a day filled with high drama which saw police reaching Tejpals house in Delhi to arrest him but not finding him, the veteran journalist dodging police and landing in Goa with TV cameras following him on the flight to protests and black flag demonstrations by BJP youth wing activists outside Dabolim airport.

Tejpals lawyer Geeta Luthra called the woman journalist who has accused Tejpal of sexually assaulting her, an agent of political forces. She also questioned the credibility of her complaint and called her not normal.

Examination of the CCTV footage of the hotel where the alleged assault is said to have taken place would show the woman journalist was not hysterical or destroyed as she claimed in her complaint, Luthra said.

The defence also sought to question the woman journalists character saying she was spotted at a bar and also seen meeting a guest the night after the alleged assault.

It also submitted two photographs of the complainant - taken during the media event where she was allegedly sexually assaulted - to show that she was normal despite the alleged incident.

Arguing for Tejpals bail even as he was on the flight from Delhi to Goa, Luthra claimed there was political interference in the case, that the police is acting in a partisan manner and that the new rape law was draconian.

Investigation is being done on the behest of political forces. The investigation is not being done in a fair manner. The law itself is draconian, Luthra said referring to the amendments to the rape law after the December 16 Delhi gangrape.

The atmosphere in the country has become draconian in the way courts look at cases now. Also, once you are accused of sexual assault, you are not a convict yet. But there seems to be a pre-trial, and a conviction declared by all even before the trial has begun, Luthra said.

She said Tejpal was willing to abide by the law and face trial, but wanted time to participate in the probe.

Here is a man whose reputation precedes him. he has stood for human rights, and in doing so he has ruffled many feathers...feathers in his fraternity, feathers of political leaders of the day, and because of that, here he doesnt get to say, Luthra said.

He is a man of great integrity, great reputation, a man with a moral commitment. For three years, when his company was shut, he was prosecuted and persecuted. It has taken him 50 years to build his reputation. All we are asking is give him time, he will face trial.

The defence also raised doubts about the woman journalist by saying she had complained after a fatal delay of 11 days. But principal judge Anuja Prabhudesai rejected this argument.

Prabhudesai also rejected Luthras argument about political forces being at play and how other rape allegations were not being pursued as meticulously.

There would be 100 cases that would not have been investigated, would that allow you to rape the judge asked.

Luthra also claimed Tejpal waited for two days at his house, waiting and hoping that the police would come to question him and was shocked that they had summoned him after he applied for bail.

If this is not partisan, then nothing is. The police here is conducting a media trial. In fact, everybody should be given an axe, and asked to hack (the accused). That is the way they want to carry on the investigation, Luthra said.

The defence counsel also alleged that the woman journalists complaint was not genuine. On the face of it, it looks a doctored document. It stands to be termed foul, being concocted, and being fabricated, she said.

Luthra also quoted Tejpal as saying, We were all together at the event. The next day, to my understanding, she even went to the beach. This is not to cast aspersions, but in two versions, there can always be vested reasons. The more a person is senior, the more the attack on him. The lady is not normal.

The court strongly objected to this.

The conduct of the woman is not to be seen at this stage. We cannot put her on the dock at this stage, the judge said.

The court also pulled up Luthra for naming the complainant two times during arguments and asked her if she was playing to the gallery.

These are mistakes we do not accept. This is not done. We are not playing to the gallery here. Are you It seems the victim is being made the accused here, Prabhudesai said, causing Luthra to apologise.

The court drama came hours after the complainant issued a statement to the media and said what Mr Tejpal did to me falls within the legal definition of rape.

We have spoken, time and again, about how rape is not about lust or sex, but about power, privilege and entitlement. Thus this new law should be applicable to everybody - the wealthy, the powerful, and the well connected - and not just to faceless strangers, she said.

Unlike Mr Tejpal, I am not a person of immense means. I have been raised single-handedly by my mothers single income. My fathers health has been very fragile for many years now.

Unlike Mr Tejpal, who is fighting to protect his wealth, his influence and his privilege, I am fighting to preserve nothing except for my integrity and my right to assert that my body is my own and not the plaything of my employer.