The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a plea by former editor of Tehelka magazine Tarun Tejpal seeking in-camera hearing on Goa government’s appeal against his acquittal in a sexual assault case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising justice P.S. Narasimha told Tejpal’s counsel that he cannot say that hearing on an appeal should be held in-camera.
Chief Justice Chandrachud said: “The accused has no right to demand it should be in-camera.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Tejpal, said there are privacy rights and also the reputation of his client is also involved here. He further added that Tejpal was acquitted and allegations were prima facie false, and also the judge said it will be an online hearing.
“It will be a media trial,” said Sibal, adding that the identity of the victim will also be revealed.
Senior advocate Amit Desai, also appearing for Tejpal, pressed that proceedings in the appeal should be held in-camera. However, the bench said, can somebody who is an accused assert that the trial should be in-camera when the victim does not demand so?
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Goa government, said the judge had revealed the name of the victim in the judgment and it is an encyclopaedia as to how the victim should behave in such situations.
The top court said that let the concerned judge take a call on the conduct of the proceedings and asked Tejpal’s counsel to make a submission before the concerned court.
After hearing arguments, the bench refused to interfere with Bombay High Court at Goa which rejected his application for in-camera hearing of the appeal filed by the Goa government against his acquittal in a sexual assault case. Tejpal had moved the apex court challenging the high court order.
In its order, the top court said a communication of the registrar (judicial) of Bombay High Court has submitted that Chief Justice has directed that hearing take place virtually.
“We leave it to the high court to take appropriate decision (whether to hear the matter virtually or physically)…,” said the bench. The Goa government has challenged Tejpal’s acquittal in the high court.
In May, last year, the trial court acquitted Tejpal of all charges levelled against him, including wrongful confinement, assault with intent to outrage modesty, sexual harassment, and rape against his female colleague.
The Goa government filed an appeal challenging his acquittal by the trial court. Tejpal moved the high court with an application seeking in-camera hearing of the matter.