The Additional district and sessions court in Mapusa on Thursday framed charges of rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint against Tehelka founder and former editor Tarun Tejpal in connection with the rape of a junior colleague.
The court has now fixed the matter on November 21 for submitting the compliance report with regard to a petition before the High Court of Bombay at Goa, which is to be heard on November 1.
The court framed the charges against Tejpal under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrong confinement), 354 (assaulting or using criminal force on a woman with an intent to outrage her modesty), 354-A (outraging modesty), 354-B (criminal assault with intent to disrobe a woman), 376 (rape), 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust or authority over woman, committing rape of such a woman) and 376(2) (k) (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman) of the Indian Penal Code.
All the charges were explained to the accused, who pleaded not guilty before the court and claimed trial.
Counsel for the accused advocate Rajeev Gomes requested the sessions court judge that charges should not be explained to the accused, as he is hopeful
that his client will be discharged of the charges by the High Court, as his petition challenging the trial court order is pending.
Special public prosecutor advocate Francisco Tavora objected and requested the court to frame the charges. Later, judge Vijaya Pol allowed the framing of charges.
While interacting with media persons, Gomes said, “I had argued before the trial court that explanation of charges should be deferred as we are confident that all charges against my client will be discharged by the High Court where a petition challenging the court order is pending. We know that there is no case of prosecution though we are disappointed with the order of the trial court. We are hopeful of getting relief from the High Court.”
When asked whether the framing of the charges is a setback to his client, he said, “It is not a setback at all. It is just a procedural act of explaining the charges. The order is already challenged before the High Court, so if the High Court reverses the order, it is the end of the matter.”
Meanwhile, special public prosecutor Tavora said that “defence was trying to interpret the High Court order by stating that the court has given an option to the trial court on whether to frame charges or not to which we objected and it was accepted.” “The trial court said that the High Court has not granted stay on the framing of charges, then why should I stay the framing of charges. The judge said that I’m giving you date on November 21 just to submit compliance report with regard to the High Court proceeding as regards the petition,” said Tavora.
It may be noted that on September 26, the High Court had refused to stay the framing of charges by a lower court against Tejpal in the alleged rape case, but directed that the trial could begin only after its consent, and the next hearing is fixed on November 1.
Goa police in 2013 booked Tejpal for allegedly raping a junior colleague in a hotel at Bambolim on November 7 and November 8, 2013. The alleged accused had sexually assaulted the junior colleague in an elevator during an event.
On November 22, 2013, police had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident and lodged an FIR against Tejpal. Subsequently, on November 28, 2013, the alleged accused had travelled down to the state and on November 30, he was arrested by the police. In this connection, the Crime Branch had filed a charge sheet against the alleged accused under IPC Sections 354, 354-A, 341, 342, 376, 376(2) (f) and 376(2) (k) with around 150 witnesses. The Supreme Court had granted a conditional bail to Tejpal with several conditions.