Panel rejects plea for unedited Tehelka tapes

NEW DELHI, JULY 6. The Justice K. Venkataswami Commission today rejected as ``premature'' the plea of some of the parties for the supply of unedited tapes of the `Tehelka' expose as well as the transcript and copies of the statement of facts filed before the Commission.

Mr. Justice Venkataswami in his order said ``the supply of unedited tapes consisting of 100 hours is not only not practicable but also not advisable. The request for the supply of unedited tapes, the transcripts thereof and also statements of other notices is premature and to certain extent anticipates issuance of notice under Section 8 (b) of the Act (for cross examination).''

It was submitted that natural justice required that the unedited tapes, which were the basis of the allegations, be made available to those who were issued notice so that they could put forth their defence properly.

However, the Additional Solicitor-General, Mr. Kirit Rawal, counsel for the Union Government, opposed such a demand stating that there was no need for supply of unedited tapes before issuance of the notice under Section 8 (b). An application by a senior Army officer that the Commission should issue a direction to the Court of Inquiry not to proceed further was withdrawn when the Commission observed that such a plea could not be entertained.

Mr. Justice Venkataswami said ``the officer had been asked to only bring to the notice of the Commission the facts known to him relating to the expose. There is no compulsion for him to disclose his defence at this stage.''

Col. Sehgal and other Army officials facing departmental inquiry in matters pertaining to Tehelka expose had contended that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself and hence they should not be compelled to adduce evidence before the Commission.