Tejpal acquittal: Victim’s normalcy inexplicable, says Goa court

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Panaji, May 26 (IANS) The “normalcy” of the victim’s behaviour following the alleged sexual assault as well as alleged untruths regarding the reasons for her staying back in Goa after the Tehelka Thinkfest in November 2013, may have impaired the prosecution’s case in the rape trial against former editor Tarun Tejpal, according to the judgement.

The judgement by Additional District and Sessions judge North Goa Kshama Joshi has also underlined the “glaring contradictions” in the statements by the victim, her mother and brother and stated that “it would be extremely risky to base the conviction of the accused on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix when it does not inspire confidence.”

Tejpal was accused by a junior colleague of assaulting her twice in November 2013, following which the former editor was charged with sections 376 (rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement) 354A (sexual harassment) and 354B (criminal assault), of the Indian Penal Code. Tejpal was acquitted of all charges on May 21, even as the Goa government has appealed against the acquittal in the Bombay High Court.

“The prosecutrix has stated about her actions and emotions on the night of November 7, 2013 and November 8, 2013, as also of the next two days at Think (the event where the said rape allegedly occurred), where she claimed to be distraught, in shock and trauma, in fear and anxiety, crying herself to sleep and shattered,” the judgement states.

It further states that even if one allows for the fact that the victim sought out three male colleagues “who were not intimate friends” to share details about the alleged incident, while making no mention of it to her roommate Sunaina and her closest friend at Tehelka, Samia Singh or even her mother, “nothing can explain the absolute normalcy of her behaviour and state of mind inside the privacy of her own room given her own avowed state of mind – such that the colleague sharing this small hotel room with her discovers two weeks later that the prosecutrix claims to have been sexually assaulted on those very nights!”

In her statement, the victim had said that she had mentioned about the alleged sexual assault to three male colleagues, who were also assisting with the festival after the incident.

The judgement notes it crucial, that her roommate “did not hear her speak on the phone at any point in even a mildly disturbed state so as to alert her that something was amiss with the prosecutrix when the prosecutrix has stated that she was talking to her husband nearly for more than an hour”.

The victim had stated in her deposition that after the incident, she had called her husband who was in Kenya at the time and narrated the harrowing account to him.

The court also underlined the inconsistencies in the statements of the victim, her mother and her brother, adding that the victim’s statement did not inspire confidence.

“In the instant case, we do not find that the evidence of the Prosecutrix inspires confidence. There are material omissions and glaring contradictions in the evidence of the Prosecutrix and her mother and brother. Each of them have a different story to tell about the commission of the offence of rape on the prosecutrix on three occasions,” the judgement states.

“The evidence of the prosecutrix in her examination-in-chief and her cross-examination also differs on material particulars. In these sets of facts, it would be extremely risky to base the conviction of the accused on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix when it does not inspire confidence,” the judgement adds.

The judgement also remarked that the victim had lied in her deposition with regards to the reason why she stayed back in Goa after the Tehelka Think event in November, 2013 and that the reason was not to seek peace of mind after the alleged sexual assault. The extended stay in Goa was planned and premeditated, the judgement states, based on Whatsapp chats with the victim’s friends.

“Further, the prosecutrix clearly told an outright lie that she does not know whether Danny was in Goa from November 6, 2013 to November 11, 2013, which is clear from the Whatsapp messages exchanged on October 30, 2013 in Whatsapp group ‘Elle Help Group’ whose members are Divyak, Anchal and the Prosecutrix, clearly shows that the prosecutrix knew Danny, that he was a Russian and she had already announced that she is brining him to Goa” the judgement states.

In her deposition, the victim had initially denied knowing Danny, a Russian national based in Mumbai, but had later admitted to knowing him as film professional.

“The below quoted WhatsApp message sent by the prosecutrix to PW15 (victim’s friend Harsimran Gill) A31/10/2013 also clearly shows her intention, in advance, of staying back in Goa post Think, and shows up entirely as a lie her narrative of being traumatised and disgusted by the accused and Tehelka and her abandoning her duties and choosing to stay on in Goa as a result,” the Court observed. A

“Instead it shows that she had never intended to return to Bombay as per schedule and had informed no-one, nor taken leave,” the judgement adds.