Blaming the Goa Police for "concealing" a crucial piece of evidence, Tehelka co-founder Tarun Tejpal moved an application before the chief judicial magistrate in Panaji on Tuesday for access to the CCTV footage from the lobby of the hotel, where he had allegedly harassed a junior colleague in November 2013.
Tejpal, 50, charged with rape and various other offences under the new stringent anti-rape law a day ago, was given a copy of the 2,864-page chargesheet, but was not provided with the footage, his lawyers said. The police, however, claimed they have submitted the footage to the court.
"The footage is the basis of our defence," said Raunaq Rao, one of Tejpal's lawyers. The matter will be heard on Wednesday.
Accused of sexually assaulting the colleague in the elevator of a five-star hotel on November 7 and the next day, Tejpal, if found guilty, can be put behind the bars for the rest of his life.
The Tehelka co-founder, arrested on November 30, released a detailed statement after receiving the chargesheet, accusing the police of being politically motivated.
"It is violative of due process not to make all collected evidence available to the accused at the time of filing the chargesheet.
"...receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting for the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued," he said.
The case is being watched with great interest as it is one of the first high-profile cases to be tried after the definition of rape was expanded in the aftermath of the 16/12 Delhi gang rape.
Even though there were no cameras inside the lift where the alleged incidents took place, the police have included footage from cameras outside the lift as evidence. Besides, emails exchanged between the woman, who has since quit Tehelka, and Tejpal, including the ones in which he apologised to her, are mentioned as crucial evidence.
"The Goa Police know their fabricated case will collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the 'testimony' of the alleged victim," Tejpal said, adding the footage would validate his innocence.
"The fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no case, and have said as much to me," he added.
Read below full text of Tejpal's statement post the chargesheet
If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV footage of the incident.
In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged, "the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed". I said this at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what had happened.
It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet. In fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.
I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police, clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and 8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the 'testimony' of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa police filed it's FIR under draconian provisions.
As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being 'held' in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating the principle of police neutrality.
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.
Tejpal can appeal in lower court after HC’s adjournment
Panaji: The Goa bench of the Bombay HC did not hear Tarun Tejpal’s bail plea on Tuesday, and said he could appeal in the lower court. Tejpal’s bail plea was rejected by the Panaji sessions court on January 15 and he appealed against it in the HC on February 6. (HTC)