Explained: Why Court in Tarun Tejpal case said Woman did not behave like sexual assault victim?

Tarun Tejpal was accused by a junior colleague of assaulting her twice in November 2013. However, he was acquitted of all charges on May 21.


After the full copy of the judgement of Tarun Tejpal’s case was made available in the public domain on Wednesday, it came to fore that District and Sessions judge while acquitting former editor-in-chief of Tehelka, of the charges of sexually assaulting his then colleague in a Goa hotel in 2013, maintained that the woman i.e. the complainant did not behave like sexual assault victim.

The judgement by Additional District and Sessions judge North Goa Kshama Joshi has also underlined the "glaring contradictions" in the statements by the victim, her mother and brother and stated that there was no medical evidence and there were ‘facts’ that ‘create doubt on (her) truthfulness’.

Meanwhile, the statement of the Judge has not gone down well with many as they raised questions that how “normative behavior” by the victim could be the basis of judgement.

When asked to a Jalandhar-based Lawyer Manpreet Kaur that whether showing courage and grit in the face of assault is not an appropriate behaviour for the victim or is there a certain way in the eyes of law that a sexual assault woman should behave?

She replied that the points highlighted in the judgement wherein the "normalcy" of the victim's behaviour is concerned, it basically draws attention to the fact that there was evidence that created doubt on her truthfulness.

She said that in the judgement, Judge Kshama Joshi has written, “Upon considering evidence on record…benefit of doubt is given to the accused because there is no corroborative evidence supporting the allegations made by the complainant girl”. This means, the points that the complainant first mentioned that she was distraught, in shock and trauma and in fear and anxiety on November 7 and 8 (when the said rape allegedly occurred), and then on the same day i.e. November 8, she was reporting to the accused and even disclosed to him her location.

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Manpreet said the Court in the judgement noted, “The unnatural conduct of the prosecutrix is again relevant under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. The prosecutrix had admitted that there were two SMSes sent from her phone to the accused on 8/11/2013…..and that these messages were not sent by her in response to any messages”.

She further said that the judgement also remarked that the victim had lied in her deposition with regards to the reason why she stayed back in Goa after the Tehelka Think event in November, 2013 and that the reason was not to seek peace of mind after the alleged sexual assault. The extended stay in Goa was planned and premeditated, the judgement states, based on Whatsapp chats with the victim's friends.

Clarifying the ‘Sexual assault Victim Behaviour’ term used by Judge, Manpreet, said such terms are used when the court finds that the evidence of the Prosecutrix do not inspire confidence and there are material omissions and glaring contradictions in the evidences presented.

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She said in the Tejpal case, the statement of the Prosecutrix and her mother and brother contradicts. “Each of them has different stories to tell about the commission of the offence of rape on the prosecutrix on three occasions”.

Background

Tejpal was accused by a junior colleague of assaulting her twice in November 2013, following which the former editor was charged with sections 376 (rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement) 354A (sexual harassment) and 354B (criminal assault), of the Indian Penal Code. Tejpal was acquitted of all charges on May 21, however, the Goa government has appealed against the acquittal in the Bombay High Court now.

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