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Tejpal receives prima facie blow

Tarun Tejpal was arrested on Saturday night after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by a Goa court. He was remanded in police custody for six days on Sunday.

On Saturday night, district and sessions judge Anuja Prabhudesai explained in detail in a 25-page order why Tejpal was not granted anticipatory bail. The order is the first formal judicial statement in the case. The following are some of the points mentioned by the judge:

Prima facie indication: The statement of the victim and the documents in the form of emails... prima facie indicate that the applicant (Tejpal), who was her mentor and father figure, had not only outraged her modesty but had misused his position, betrayed her trust and violated her body.

The material on record prima facie indicates that the applicant (Tejpal) is involved in committing acts which constitute offences under Section 354A (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 376 (2) (K) (custodial rape) of IPC. If proved guilty, Section 354A entails imprisonment up to seven years and Section 376 (2) (K) up to life.

Delay in complaint: Although there was delay in reporting the matter to the managing editor, it is not material at this stage.

(The Tejpal legal team had laid stress on the delay.) The delay in lodging the report is not necessarily fatal and can always be explained. The yardstick of unexplained delay in filing an FIR, which usually goes in favour of the accused, cannot be applied in cases involving sexual offences.

The victims of such crime undergo physical as well as mental trauma and humiliation. Their reputation, dignity, honour, future prospects and financial security are at stake and often the victims and their family members are subjected to social ridicule.

These circumstances often lead to delay in reporting the incident. The veracity of the complainant or the statement of the victim cannot be doubted on the ground of delay.

Colleagues' version: Although such corroboration is not strictly necessary, the statement of her colleagues prima facie corroborates her version

Details: The judge said the details of the emails need not be reproduced. She also said the girl's version, at this stage, need not be sieved, sifted, weighed and appreciated

Non-consent: The judge said the email correspondence prima facie indicated that Tejpal had not disputed the incident. The initial correspondence indicated that he was aware the victim was not a consenting party but it was only at a later stage that he had changed his version. The insinuations that the victim was a consenting party or the alleged act was only light-hearted bantering cannot be accepted.

Custodial interrogation: Success in interrogation would elude if the suspected person knows that he is well protected and insulated by a pre-arrest bail order during the time he is interrogated. It is held that very often, interrogation in such condition would be reduced to a mere ritual.

Political pressure: The applicant has nowhere stated in his application that the victim has made the accusation under political pressure or at the behest of any party.

Disgrace claim: The material on record prima facie reveals that the applicant... had subjected the victim to ignominy, humiliation and disgrace. Hence, the applicant cannot claim bail on the ground that his arrest would curtail his personal liberty or will cause ignominy, humiliation and disgrace.

Tried to influence: The applicant is not only an influential person but the record prima facie indicates that the applicant tried to influence the family of the victim and the possibility of the applicant interfering with the evidence cannot be ruled out.

Liberty balance: The court has to maintain a fine balance between societal interest vis-a-vis personal liberty. The offences alleged are crimes against women and society in general and, if not properly investigated, can destroy the psyche of women and the basic fabric of the society. Offences of such nature fall in a different category and justify custodial interrogation.