In a scathing and devastating indictment of the Goa Police and the prosecution, the District and Sessions Court, Mapusa, Goa on Tuesday released Justice Kshama Joshi’s exhaustive 527 page judgement in the Tarun J Tejpal case that radically overturns the public narrative in the case and illustrates a copybook case of malafide and vitiated investigation.
The judge examined over 70 prosecution witnesses during the course of the trial, alongside exhaustive CCTV footage — there were over 48 hours of recordings submitted — was viewed in the case that hit national and global headlines since November 2013.
“Anomalies, discrepancies, inaccuracies, improvements, omissions, contradictions and sheer impossibilities mark the narrative of the prosecutrix, yet the IO and the prosecution have turned a blind eye to them at every stage,” the verdict states.
“It is not merely well-settled law but a fundamental principle of jurisprudence and of our justice system itself that the Right to Fair Investigation is guaranteed to Accused under Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice Kshama Joshi writes.
The allegations in the case rest around less than 120 seconds in which the prosecutrix alleged that Tejpal forcibly restrained her in a lift in the Grand Hyatt hotel and assaulted her, and prevented the lift from opening on any of the two floors of the hotel block while she struggled against him. “According to the prosecutrix, in that encounter, she was trapped by him in an elevator that he managed to stall, whose doors refused to open and which she could not get moving,” the verdict notes.
A close examination of the CCTV footage has comprehensively proved this to be a lie. “The Defence has during cross established through the CCTV footage that the lift did in fact open twice on the ground floor during the relevant period though the prosecutrix claimed that they absolutely did not open.”
Even more startling was the disclosure in the judgement that crucial CCTV footage of the first floor of block 7 that was viewed by Goa Police was mysteriously omitted and destroyed when the evidence was submitted and made available to the Court and to the Defence.
The judgement highlights that the Defence had argued that Mr Tejpal and the prosecutrix were not in the lift during the relevant two minutes but had exited the lift on the first floor. On cross-examination it was revealed that the CCTV footage of the first floor had been seized and viewed by the Investigating Officer, then mysteriously disappeared and was never attached as evidence.
“It can be said that because the footage of the First Floor would have wholly destroyed the Prosecution’s case, P70, the IO (Investigating Officer) sought to keep out the relevant footage for the First Floor and render it unavailable,” the judgement states. “If the first floor footage was viewed on 29/11/2013, where did it disappear and there is absolutely no explanation for the same from the prosecution.” She goes on to say, “the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Investigating Officer tampered with and destroyed the CCTV footage of the first floor guest lift of block 7 since it would conclusively corroborate the defence of the accused.”
All the CCTV footage that is on record, she goes on to highlight, also falsifies every claim of the prosecutrix, including on the alleged second day of the assault. “It is crucial to note that while in her complaint PW1 had stated that he grabbed her wrist and pulled her in, the CCTV footage showed that he had not touched her at all. But she not only accompanies him, she first follows him to the lift and then waits alongside him outside the lift…”
“It is crucial to note that the contradictions are often so glaring that the exact opposite of what the Prosecutrix is claiming actually happens on screen yet, the IO did not even question the Prosecutrix on the same,” the judgement notes.
The judgement also makes note of three messages sent by the Prosecutrix to Tejpal soon after the alleged second assault telling him where she was at that moment, even as her narrative claimed she was terrified and keeping her distance from him. “Her sending the same message thrice in the span of a very few minutes clearly establishes that the prosecutrix was not traumatised nor terrified of being located or found by the accused, and completely belies the prosecution case that immediately before the said messages, the accused had sexually assaulted the prosecutrix again.”
The judge further notes that the alleged “apology” issued by Tejpal was demanded by the prosecutrix in exact terminology and specific language with promise of closure of the complaint against him and that the law clearly recognises the extremely suspect nature of ‘confessions’ when demanded against closure of a complaint. Dealing with the so-called personal apology, an email titled ‘Personal’ that Tejpal sent to the Prosecutrix after she lodged her complaint against him, the judgement goes on to state, “a bare reading of the alleged personal apology categorically shows that his email neither implicitly nor explicitly makes any of the admissions or confessions which PW1 demanded in the apology, or with relation to any other offence with which the accused was charged and is clearly therefore not an apology but an attempt to assuage any discomfort the prosecutrix might have post-facto felt.”
Tejpal had clarified that in the five minutes preceding the alleged assault, when the Prosecutrix and he had left Block 7 and stood outside chatting — a fact that CCTV proves but that the Prosecutrix repeatedly omitted from her narrative and complaint — they had engaged in “drunken banter”. “The accused submits that the said email shows that even as the accused outright denied the prosecutrix’s version of the incident and disputed her claims of what had happened, he offered an apology only to any discomfort she might have felt about the previously mentioned ‘drunken banter’,” the judgement states.
WhatsApp and email evidence in the case also proved that the Prosecutrix suppressed evidence that would have proved that the first person she met after the alleged assault and to whom she claimed to have revealed what had happened in fact completely falsified her version of events. “Nikhil was the first person the prosecutrix met virtually minutes after the alleged incident of 7/11/2013, a fact which the prosecutrix completely hid during the investigation and in her evidence before this court, despite the crucial role a nearly contemporaneous witness plays in any investigation,” the judgement states. It goes on to call out the IO regarding the blatant omission of this witness. “It is also very important to note that despite there being a reference to Nikhil being the first person the Prosecutrix had met, in her draft complaint of 16/11/2013, a reference which she later deleted, the IO did not do any investigation by contacting Nikhil Agarwal, or even did not make attempt to question the Prosecutrix.”
The judgement also notes that on November 22, the very date on which Goa Police let it be known that there was CCTV footage in the case, Tejpal had issued a press release demanding the footage be released to the public, despite not having seen it himself. “The importance of the CCTV footage to the truth was first heralded by the accused, in Delhi, as early as 22/11/2013 itself, i.e. the very date of the registering of the FIR, vehemently demanding that the police should procure the CCTV footage and that it would reveal the truth, as admitted by the witnesses below. The media statement was made by the accused to secure the CCTV footage to reveal the truth and to establish his innocence which has been confirmed by the witnesses.”