Trial judge in Tarun Tejpal’s case ordered by Bombay HC to redact all references to survivors’ identity

THE trial judge who acquitted Tehelka magazine’s former editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal in a rape case has been directed by the Bombay High Court’s Goa bench to redact all references in the judgment that directly or indirectly disclosed the identity of the rape survivor and only then upload it on the court’s website.

The order was passed on Thursday after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Goa government which has appealed the acquittal, pointed out that the victim’s mail id, name of her mother, name of her partner, etc., had been mentioned in the trial order.

As per the law, the disclosure of the identity of rape survivors either directly or indirectly is prohibited.

SG Mehta, on merits, submitted that the trial court judgement lacked both the legal jurisprudence and sensitivity.

“The judge has given a finding that unless a rape survivor exhibits her trauma her testimony cannot be believed, this calls for immediate interference by the high court, SG Mehta submitted.

Mehta also took objections to the judge misinterpreting the victim approaching senior lawyer Indira Jaising for legal advice.

He submitted that he would need three days to file amended grounds to challenge the acquittal order as its copy was made available only after the state had filed the appeal.

The high court has now fixed June 2 as the next date of hearing.

On May 21, Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi pronounced the order acquitting Tejpal of offences under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty), 354A ((sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe),) 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (2)(f) (person in position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376(2)(k) (rape by person in position of control).

In her 527-page judgment delivered on May 21, which was made available late Tuesday night, sessions court judge Kshama Joshi said the victim’s actions such as “proactively” sending messages to the accused about her location in the aftermath of the alleged sexual assault did not support her “narrative of extreme implausibility”.

The survivor had not exhibited any kind of “normative behaviour” such as trauma and shock which a victim of sexual assault might show, the judge opined.

Ruling that there was no medical evidence and there were “facts” that “create doubt on (her) truthfulness,” the court said the woman’s messages to the accused “clearly establish” that she was neither “traumatised nor terrified” and this “completely belies” the prosecution’s case.

The Leaflet