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Tejpal lawyer stays away

Mumbai, Feb. 18: Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal today missed another opportunity to seek bail with his defence counsel not showing up during his bail plea hearing.

The Goa bench of Bombay High Court will next hear the plea on March 4. Tejpal later issued a statement calling the case against him a “political vendetta”.

A day after Goa police filed a chargesheet accusing Tejpal of rape, sexual assault and molestation among other misdemeanours, he was at the Panaji court for the bail hearing. Judge Mridula R. Bhatkar had yesterday permitted him to be present.

Tejpal’s defence team, however, sought adjournment of the hearing till Friday saying counsel Amit Desai was not present.

Sources close to Tejpal said he was having serious differences with one of his Delhi-based legal teams.

“He now thinks they are not efficient enough to get him out of this mess. He is also upset because he could not avail himself of the legal services of a top Mumbai lawyer despite deputing him because of the reservations of some of his Delhi lawyers. The whole thing has become too complicated. Today’s incident was a bit of a jolt for him,” said the source.

The absence of the counsel was not the only reason the bail hearing was put off. Judge Bhatkar said the chargesheet had not been brought to the court’s notice by either the defence or the prosecution.

“The judge said she would like to read the chargesheet before the next hearing and fixed the next date for March 4,” said Suresh Lotlikar, the special public prosecutor.

A downcast Tejpal, on his way out of the court, told reporters: “There is no piece of evidence against me. Ask for CCTV footage.”

Later in the evening, he issued a statement calling the case “highly sinister and motivated political vendetta”.

“I’m afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one,” the statement said.