New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday granted bail to Tehelka founder editor Tarun Tejpal in a sexual assault case.
Tejpal was arrested in Goa in November last year after a woman colleague accused him of sexually assaulting her in a hotel there that month.
Granting bail, a bench of Justice H.L.Dattu and Justice S.A. Bobde said: “In the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the opinion that petitioner (Tejpal) is entitled for regular bail.”
Addressing the apprehensions of the Goa government that Tejpal would use his liberty to interfere with the trial by influencing the witnesses, the court cautioned Tejpal to refrain from directly or indirectly doing so.
“The petitioner shall not directly or indirectly resort to inducement, threat or coercion of witnesses,” the court said, giving liberty to the Goa government to “make an application if for any reason petitioner (Tejpal) violates the bail condition”.
The court directed the trail court to complete the trial in eight months and asked Tejpal to remain present on all days and not seek unnecessary adjournments.
It said that in case Tejpal was unable to be present, he would take permission of the court and intimate the investigating agency about it.
The court also directed Tejpal to surrender his passport to the trial court if he has not already not done so.
Senior counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul appearing for the Goa government opposed the bail plea, saying that their apprehensions were reasonable and well-founded that Tejpal would infringe with the witnesses. He said there was material to support their apprehensions.
To this, Justice Dattu said: “It is an apprehension today. If apprehension comes out to be true, then you can always come to us seeking the recall or modification of our order granting bail.”
The court said that Tejpal was in jail since November and with 153 witnesses it will take three years.
“Speedy trial is must. With 153 witnesses, speedy trial is difficult. It will take three years,” the court said as it brushed aside Kaul’s plea that let the victim and four primary witnesses be examined by the trial court.
Can we take away his liberty and say ‘You suffer imprisonment’,” the court asked Goa counsel. “What you are saying is of past. From today if there is anything, then come to us and we will look into it.”
If the investigations were on and charge sheet had yet to be filed, one can understand denying bail, but once investigation is over and charge sheet filed, “how could he be kept in jail?”, the court asked Goa government counsel.
Justice Dattu said they will request senior counsel Salman Khurshid, who appeared for Tejpal, to tell his client that if he interferes with the witnesses, then he will have to suffer the consequences.
Appearing for Tejpal, Khurshid said he had taken note of the concern of the court and was sure that his client would take it more seriously. “I will convey the caution of the court in strongest possible term,” he assured the court.
Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a woman colleague in a five-star hotel on two occasions Nov 7-8 last year during an event organised by his magazine Tehelka.
On May 19, the apex court granted him three-week interim bail so that he could carry out the last rites and other rituals of his mother.
On June 3, the interim bail was extended till June 27, as more rituals connected with his mother’s death were to be performed.
The Supreme Court earlier extended his interim bail in the case till July 1.
Tejpal was charged Feb 18 with rape, sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of his colleague.