The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday rejected Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal’s bail application. This, after an Additional Sessions and Fast Track Court in Panaji permitted him to visit his ailing mother at Vrindavan Hospital in north Goa for an hour on Saturday.
Mr. Tejpal has been in jail for 104 days since his arrest on November 30, 2013 on charge of raping a woman colleague at the magazine’s ThinkFest held in Goa. He is lodged in the Sada sub jail at Vasco in south Goa. The High Court also rejected Mr. Tejpal’s application to revise the local District and Sessions Court order in January disallowing bail.
In his 45-page order, Justice U.V. Bakre said the applicant could not fall back on orders given in cases where persons accused of rape were released on bail after a charge sheet was filed. The judge said all the cited court orders were given prior to Sections 375, 376 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 309 of the Cr.PC.
In response to senior counsel’s plea to allow Mr. Tejpal to visit his ailing mother, the order said there were other potential caregivers in the family.
Justice Bakre said he was not inclined to accept the bail application given the seriousness of the offence, likelihood of the applicant fleeing from justice and tampering with witnesses. He upheld the senior public prosecutor’s contention that it was not possible to grant bail when the main witnesses were not yet examined.
The order further observed that according to Section 309 of the Cr.PC, the trial, as far as possible, had to be completed within two months from the date of filing the charge sheet. The applicant could renew his application after the victim and other main witnesses were examined or after the completion of the said two months.
Referring to the seizure of a mobile phone from Mr. Tejpal’s possession in jail recently, the order said it was difficult to believe that the applicant would obey conditions if he was released on bail.
Upholding the District and Sessions Court order rejecting the bail, Justice Bakre said the decision could not be treated as erroneous or in utter disregard of bail jurisprudence. He made it clear that the High Court’s observations should not influence the Sessions Court.