The alleged victim in the sexual assault case against journalist Tarun Tejpal has sought cross examination via video conferencing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tejpal strongly objected to her cross examination virtually on Monday before the Supreme Court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Goa government, contended before a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices M R Shah and R Subhash Reddy that the alleged victim has lung infection and she is avoiding travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Tejpal, strongly objected to it. Sibal argued that the woman does not want to face trial and insisted that she has no lung problem.
Justice Shah queried Sibal, "what is wrong with video conferencing? We are also hearing cases through video conferencing." Sibal contended this is a case where the accused wants to complete the trial expeditiously and reiterated that his client is against the extension of the trial. Mehta also supported the cross examination through video conferencing.
The bench issued notice to Tarun Tejpal on a plea filed by Goa police seeking extension of time for completing the trial in the 2013 sexual assault case against him.
The bench allowed Tejpal time to file his reply and posted the matter for further hearing to next Thursday. On August 19, 2019 while refusing to quash charges against Tejpal, the top court had ordered expeditious trial.
The trial court is under instructions to complete the proceedings in the case by December this year. The court had earlier issued a bailable warrant to secure the victim's presence before it, as her absence for cross examination was holding up the progress of the trial.
The victim moved the High Court seeking suspension of the warrant, and she was granted this relief. The High Court observed that unless the victim approaches the top court and seeks extension, there is nothing much either the High Court or the trial court could do.
The prosecutor had informed the court that the state government is making all efforts to move the top court in the matter.
The High Court was informed that the victim was facing problems to come to Goa from Delhi amid the pandemic. She also cited a respiratory infection, which makes her prone to health hazards if she were to travel amid the pandemic.