New Delhi, Dec 6: The Supreme Court asked a Goa court to start examining witnesses in an alleged rape case of 2013 against Tarun Tejpal, the founder of Tehelka magazine, saying there would be no stay of trial in the matter.
The apex court asked the Bombay High Court, which had earlier directed the trial court not to examine the witnesses, to decide within three months the plea filed by Tejpal challenging framing of charges against him. Tejpal is alleged to have sexually assaulted a former colleague inside the elevator of a five-star hotel in Goa in 2013. Tejpal has denied all allegations levelled against him.
The matter came up for hearing before a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao and Tejpal's counsel argued that the high court has asked the trial court not to proceed with the examination of witnesses in the case. Senior advocate Aman Lekhi and advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, representing Tejpal, told the bench that they have not delayed the case in any manner and there were 151 prosecution witnesses in the matter.
Lekhi also claimed that the police had withheld the footage of CCTV camera which was installed in the corridor outside the lift of the hotel. The counsel, representing the state, told the court that no witnesses have been examined yet and Tejpal has moved the high court challenging the framing of charges in the case. He argued that though there were 151 prosecution witnesses in the case, several might be dropped during trial.
The apex court, however, observed it had earlier said that trial in the case should be completed within a year but nothing has been done yet. "It is a common experience that whenever bail is granted, the accused is not in a hurry to complete the trial," the bench observed, while making it clear that it was not saying that Tejpal was delaying the case.
"We consider it appropriate that the high court may dispose of the criminal revision petition...pending before it as early as possible and in any case not later than three months from today," it said. "We make it clear that in the meanwhile, there shall be no stay of trial and witnesses may be examined in accordance with the law," the top court said. The bench also observed that the revision plea should be decided on it own merits and the apex court's order would have no bearing on it.
The Goa trial court had in September this year framed charges of alleged rape and wrongful confinement against Tejpal in the case filed against him. He was arrested on November 30, 2013 by the Crime Branch after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the court. He has been out on bail since May 2014.