Panaji, Nov 29 Accused of rape and of dodging the Goa Police, Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal finally arrived here Friday and got interim bail till 10 a.m. Saturday after high voltage courtroom drama.
Tejpal’s arrival in Panaji came on a day of rapid developments across New Delhi and Goa, packed with action, suspense and legal battles.
An elusive Tejpal kept both the media and police in Goa and Delhi guessing for most of the morning before surfacing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport around noon to board an Indigo airline flight.
A pale-looking Tejpal, wearing a black shirt and his trademark pony tail, was accompanied by his wife Geetan, sister Neena, brother Minty and others. He made a short but agitated statement to the media.
“I got the summons yesterday. I said I am going to Goa. And I am going to Goa,” Tejpal said, before boarding at 2.30 p.m. a flight also ferrying media crew and Goa Police officials.
When he landed in Goa, it was to a chorus of protests orchestrated by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists who raised slogans against the veteran journalist known for sting operations.
He was escorted out of the airport through a less conspicuous exit. Tejpal was taken to the Crime Branch office where he was questioned by the investigating officer, Inspector Sunita Sawant.
His legal team was present all through the session.
About 35 km away in Panaji, while granting interim bail to Tejpal, North Goa District and Sessions Judge Anuja Prabhudessai heard the anticipatory bail plea for nearly an hour and a half, listening to arguments put forth by the prosecution and defence lawyers.
While the prosecution pressed for custodial interrogation, the defence raised a spectrum of points ranging from Tejpal’s alleged political victimization to accusing the victim of fabricating the rape case, even calling the new anti-rape law “draconian”.
Tejpal’s counsel Geeta Luthra told the court that the first email sent by the victim complaining of the sexual assault in a Goa hotel this month was an “afterthought” and done with “vested interests”.
The defence counsel accused the victim of fabricating the complaint.
“Journalists can write well with embellishments,” the defence argued, claiming the victim was hanging out at the resort’s bar and even strolling on the beach with friends after the “incident”.
“If she was so devastated and in trouble, why was she behaving normally after the incident which she claims happened?”
During the proceedings, the judge blasted the defence counsel for reading out the name of the victim from the FIR.
“Are you trying to malign the victim? Is she the accused or the victim?” the woman judge asked.
Tejpal’s legal team also accused the Goa Police of pandering to their “political masters”, who they claimed were victimizing Tejpal.
“The BJP is responsible for this entire conspiracy. The police here are subservient to their political masters,” Luthra said.
Earlier, the victim accused Tejpal of rape in her most hard hitting statement since the scandal broke out 11 days back.
She said she was “deeply concerned” and “very disturbed” about suggestions that her complaint against Tejpal was a part of “a pre-election political conspiracy”.
“I categorically refute such insinuations,” she said, adding that her case was a “litmus test” for the new rape law.
The woman journalist quit Tehelka after accusing Tejpal of sexually molesting her twice.
Just after dawn Friday, a joint team of Goa Police and Delhi Police raided Tejpal’s house in New Delhi’s Jungpura Extension area and offices and homes of friends and family in Greater Kailash, Gurgaon and New Friends Colony.
The team had set out to arrest Tejpal, after the accused failed to appear before Goa Police by 3 p.m. Thursday, in response to a summons. Police failed to find Tejpal, who then dramatically reached the Delhi airport to fly to Goa.