Victim shaming order acquitting Tarun Tejpal in sexual assault case contested

Victim shaming order acquitting Tarun Tejpal in sexual assault case contested

MUMBAI: The Goa government in its amended petition in the Bombay High Court said the acquittal of journalist Tarun Tejpal’s in a sexual assault case was a fit for retrial as the lower court had shown a lack of understanding of a victim’s post-trauma behaviour and censured her character.

The appeal, filed before the Goa bench, was amended to bring on record the judgment and include further grounds against the acquittal of Tejpal.

The government said the trial court “considered the evidence given by defence witnesses as gospel truth, but at the same time discredited without any finding the evidence given by the victim and the prosecution witnesses”.

It also claimed that the trial court completely ignored the most telling piece of evidence in the case (the apology e-mail) “which established the guilt of the accused beyond a shadow of doubt”.

On May 21, sessions judge Kshama Joshi acquitted Tarun Tejpal, former editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, in the case where he was accused of sexually assaulting his then woman colleague in a lift of a a five-star hotel in Goa in November 2013 when they were attending an event.

The trial court in its judgment questioned the woman’s conduct, noting she did not exhibit any kind of “normative behaviour” such as trauma and shock which a victim of sexual assault might plausibly show.

The Goa government later filed an appeal against the acquittal. In its amended appeal, which will be heard on June 2, the state government said the trial court had “lost sight” of the fact that it was Tejpal who was an accused and was on trial, and not the victim.

“The entire judgment focuses on indicting the complainant rather than trying to ascertain the culpable role of the accused,” the appeal said. The finding of the trial court on how a woman, who has been a victim of sexual assault, behaves is “unsustainable in law” it said.

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