Goa court frames rape charge against Tejpal, he pleads not guilty
Panaji: A Goa court on Thursday formally framed charges, including of rape, against former Tehelka Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal for the alleged sexual assault on his then junior colleague in 2013.
Tejpal has been charged under Sections 376 (2) (rape), 354 'A' and 'B' (criminal force with intent to disrobe), 341 (wrongful restraint) 342 (wrongful confinement). After the charges were presented and explained to him, he pleaded not guilty.
His counsel Rajiv Gomes expressed disappointment at Additional District and Sessions Judge Vijaya Pol's order. Gomes said the framing of charges was not a setback to Tejpal.
The counsel said the defence hoped that its appeal pending before the Bombay High Court's Panaji bench would reverse the lower court's order.
Earlier, in the courtroom on Thursday afternoon, North Goa's Additional District and Sessions Court finalised the charges against Tejpal who allegedly committed rape during an event organised by the Tehelka media group in a five-star resort in Goa.
"It is a procedure in the trial. The court has to explain the charge(s) to him. He has pleaded not guilty to all of them," Public Prosecutor Francisco Tavora told reporters outside the court premises at Mapusa, 10km north of Panaji.
"It is not a setback at all. It is just a procedural act of explaining the charge(s). The order stands already challenged before the High Court, so if the High Court reverses the order, it is the end of the matter," Gomes told reporters.
Earlier, Gomes pleaded before the Sessions Court to not frame charges against Tejpal, in view of an appeal filed in the High Court last week, which the court did not accept.
"When the High Court has not imposed a stay on framing of charges, why should I impose a stay on myself," Judge Pol said.
The Sessions Court fixed the next hearing for November 21, when a status report on Tejpal's plea in the High Court would be presented before her.
On September 26, while hearing a primary appeal petition filed by Tejpal to seek a stay on framing of charges, the High Court had directed that the trial should resume only after its go-ahead, but refused to stay the processes of formal framing of charges against the former Editor, which was requested by defence lawyers.
"I had contended before the Sessions Court that the explanation of the charge(s) to the accused should be deferred because we are hopeful -- we are confident -- that we will get a discharge from the High Court. Because we know that there is no case in the prosecution. We are disappointed with the order of the trial court. We are hopeful that we will get relief from the High Court," Gomes said.
The High Court will hear Tejpal's plea on November 1.