A petition for an in-camera hearing by Tarun Tejpal, former editor of Tehelka magazine, in the Bombay High Court on Goa’s appeal against his acquittal in a case of rape of a junior colleague was rejected by the Supreme Court on Monday.
In November 2013, Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a colleague in Goa. Kshama Joshi, Additional Sessions Judge, acquitted him of all charges on May 21, 2021, following a trial on camera.
CJI D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha heard Tejpal’s plea and stated that the purpose of CrPC Section 327, which allows a court to conduct its proceedings in camera, is to protect the rights of the victim. In the end, the purpose of Section 327 is to protect victims’ rights, the CJI stated. In order for the victim to be able to depose fearlessly, she must be protected. Will someone who has been accused have the right to a hearing on camera when the victim does not request one? ”
CJI Chandrachud said the relevant provision in CrPC says that “the inquiry leading up to the trial will be in camera. We have crossed that stage. There is no vested right. The accused has no right to demand.”
Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of Tejpal, said the allegations against his client are “preliminarily untrue”. He asserted, “My reputation is on the line… WhatsApp messages, etc. will be revealed.”. The identity of the victim will also be revealed. It’s not in anyone’s best interest. This needs to be considered in light of K S Puttaswamy (privacy judgment). The issue of privacy and reputation is involved.”
He urged the bench too at least direct that the hearing will take place physically, not virtually, since the Supreme Court did not appear inclined to grant the relief.
However, the SC left it to the HC to determine whether the hearing should take place in person or virtually.