New Delhi: Tarun Tejpal, founder editor of Tehelka magazine, suffered a major setback on Monday with the Supreme Court dismissing his plea to quash sexual assault charges lodged by a former junior colleague.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also ordered the Goa trial court to conclude the trial in six months, noting that there had already been an inordinate delay in concluding the trial although the FIR was lodged in 2013.
Justice MR Shah, reading out the verdict, said that the offence against Tejpal relates to "assault on privacy" and is one the most morally abhorrent crimes, and that he must now stand the trial.
On the last date of hearing in this matter, the top court had questioned Tejpal as to why he had apologised to the former colleague if the sexual assault charges against him were a sham.
As Tejpal's lawyer contended that the allegations of rape against the senior journalist were tailor-made and had no truth, the bench had asked Tejpal the reason why he sent the letter of apology to her after the alleged incident nearly six years ago.
"If nothing had happened, you would not have sent apologies. Something inappropriate must have had happened," remarked Justice Arun Mishra, who was heading the three-judge bench.
A junior colleague of Tejpal had accused him of sexually assaulting her inside a lift at a five-star hotel in Goa during an event in 2013, triggering a massive public outrage. He is currently out on bail.
After a Goa court ordered him to stand the trial, Tejpal moved the Supreme Court, seeking the charges of rape and wrongful confinement against him quashed.
Senior lawyer Vikas Singh, appearing for Tejpal, had earlier also referred to the CCTV footages of the hotel lobby, and argued that it was the complainant who could be seen running after him and that "she is the one who started everything".
Singh had added that anybody can make any allegations like this in a lift. He further accused the police of concealing certain WhatsApp messages of the victim, which according to Singh, will prove the charges false.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Goa Police in this matter, refuted these allegations and said that the arguments by Tejpal's lawyer were meant for the trial.
"The trial is yet to take place. There are ample materials in the form of contemporaneous emails," Mehta had then said.
The court had then reserved its order on Tejpal's petition while adding: "We will not damage anybody's case."
Another bench in the Supreme Court had last year in October stayed the trial in the case, pending its final decision on Tejpal's petition.