The Goa Sessions Court that recently aqquitted former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal had said in its judgement that the prosecution failed to produce crucial evidence, including CCTV footage, and the investigation officer committed several omissions during the investigation in the rape case.
According to the Bar and Bench, the Sessions Court, in its verdict, stated that there were several omissions and changes of versions of the depositions of the prosecutrix in the case.
Acquitting Tejpal in the rape case, the Sessions Court had noted discrepancies in the evidence submitted by the prosecution, which was deliberate as per the defence. In its 527-page order, the court said that there were glaring contradictions in the statements made by the prosecutrix, and the investigating officer had not questioned the prosecutrix about such discrepancies.
Tarun Tejpal, the founder and former editor-in-chief of Tehelka, was acquitted of all charges in the case of sexual assault and rape of a junior colleague by a Session Court in Goa. Judge Kshama Joshi on May 21 acquitted Tejpal of all charges in the sexual assault case.
Investigation officer did not submit evidence, CCTV footage missing
The investigating officer had failed to submit crucial evidence to the court, and CCTV footage recorded on the day of the incident is also missing, the court noted. The court also that the investigating officer did not record the statements of certain witnesses, despite their willingness to depose.
The emails exchanged between the prosecution, and the defence witnesses were located on the Tehelka server. However, those crucial emails were not procured by the officer during the investigation, the verdict noted.
The additional sessions court at Mapusa, acquitting Tarun Tejpal, held that Goa police destroyed “clear proof of evidence” by not producing the CCTV footage of the first floor of the five-star hotel where Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague.
On CCTV footage, the court noted that the investigation officer had given directions to other investigating officers to download CCTV footage only of the ground floor and second floor and not the first floor to deliberately destroy all traces of CCTV footage of the first floor.
“The IO viewed vital CCTV footage of the guest lifts on the first floor and knowing that the said CCTV footage shows the accused and prosecutrix exiting the lift during the relevant two minutes on the first floor and that the same would exonerate the accused and despite the fact that the DVR containing the CCTV footage should have been attached by the IO at the earliest to preserve the crucial footage, deliberately delayed the seizure of the DVR and in the meanwhile destroyed the CCTV footage of first floor, thereby destroying clear proof of the accused’s defence,” the Court said.
Several omissions in the investigation, prosecution failed to prove Tejpal’s guilt: Court
In a scathing observation, the Sessions Court said that the investigating officer had committed several omissions while conducting the investigation. Noting the investigation was not carried out properly, the court observed that the investigating officer had failed to ask basic questions to the accused in the case.
“No empirical data to show how a button on the lift panel can keep the doors closed when the lift is stationary between floors. No verification on how the buttons on the lift panel could be pressed to facilitate the commission of any crime. No report from the company which made the lift to find out the functioning of the lift. No interrogation of the prosecutrix on what the accused did on the lift panel with his hands during the alleged incident and how he pressed the lift buttons,” the court noted.
The Session Court, which granted the rape-accused Tarun Tejpal on May 21, concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and, hence, declared acquittal of Tejpal.
Interestingly, soon after the verdict was pronounced in favor of the journalist, an official statement was released, wherein he had thanked Congress leaders like Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal amongst others for helping him in the legal battle.
Goa to challenge Tejpal’s acquiital
Meanwhile, the State of Goa has challenged the order acquitting Tejpal before Goa Bench of Bombay High Court.
Far-left journalist Tarun Tejpal was accused of forcing himself on a colleague against her wishes inside an elevator of the Grand Hyatt, Bambolim, Goa, on November 7, 2013, during an official event. He had stepped down as editor for six months after being accused of sexual assault.
Tejpal was arrested in November 2013 and later released on bail in July 2014. The trial against Tejpal started in 2017. Meanwhile, Tejpal had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking dismissal of the case against him, claiming that the charges were fabricated. Both High Court and Supreme Court had also dismissed the plea in 2019.