An illegal campaign is on for Tejpal

Vrinda Grover is a noted lawyer and activist.

Vrinda Grover
Vrinda Grover

The CCTV footage has been shown to many carefully identified and selected persons in the media and influential and powerful persons, by family and close coterie of friends of Tarun Tejpal. This is in violation of the law and the order of the court. Yes, the family has a right to defend Tarun Tejpal, but not by committing unlawful and illegal acts.

The young woman journalist does not have a copy of the CCTV footage. Only the Prosecution and the defence have copies. I have not seen the CCTV footage. No one who has taken a public or private position asking for justice for the young woman journalist and asked for a fair trial, not prejudiced or overawed by the campaign conducted by Tarun Tejpal gang, has seen the CCTV footage. We are not supposed to see that footage because it reveals the identity of the woman journalist. That is the law. Can we leave some decisions to the court or does the English writing glitterati want to usurp the role of the Court, much like the khap panchayats.

urlYes, we must debate issues and cases of public importance. I do not support a gag order of any kind. Not even the one imposed by the Delhi High Court in favour of the former Supreme Court Judge in the case of the law intern.

On each occasion the friends and family of Traun Tejpal have orchestrated a media campaign against the young woman journalist. The entire campaign hinges on the ‘young woman’s character’, which when decoded means the same old thing, her past sexual relationships. Please note, the modern day, English speaking or rather writing, khap panchayats have ruled in favor of Tarun Tejpal on precisely the same grounds. The woman complainant appears ‘normal’, it must be consensual. Bingo!

What is the “reasonable conduct” of a survivor of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment or sexual abuse? Jurisprudence in India, will have to be engendered, to understand and comprehend this.

Is it a coincidence that these articles appear at a juncture when a bail petition will be moved for Tarun Tejpal in the Supreme Court. I firmly believe that under-trials have a right to bail. However, the jails are overcrowded with an under-trial population that is disproportionately POOR. Where the accused persons can threaten witnesses, or tamper with evidence or use their position to cause prejudice to a fair trial, their liberty is constrained through denial of bail. We do not have a witness-victim protection mechanism that offers any real security to the complainants and so at times bail should be refused.

We live in a real world where power, influence and position, can and does manipulate and subvert and truth. It appears that at times these results can be achieved even when the person is in custody. Even as the law stands by, as a mere spectator, indifferent to its promise to protect the woman’s dignity.

Also to all my friends and fellow travelers who are secular activists, anti-communal campaigners and civil libertarians, I have not overnight become naive, nor have I succumbed to some victim’s story. I am thinking with the same clarity, mental agility, and political astuteness, with which i engage with the Ishrat Jahan case, or Soni Sori, or the Muzaffarnagar gang rapes. In my struggle against fascism, I do not prioritize rights or victims. At the core of my politics lies freedom of all, including women.

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3 thoughts on “An illegal campaign is on for Tejpal

  1. I agree with all that Vrinda says…but I have been a bit challenged to understand the proportion of punishment and the gravity of the offence in this case… is it the personality or the infamousness of the accused in this case that keeps him in jail for so long? Or is there more politics to it than meets the eye? Bail is usually given in such cases across board…so why not here? I just want to understand without any sense of bias.

  2. Just a couple of reactions… The Young Woman in question, in her role as prosecutrix, has no legal right or reason to have access to the CCTV tapes, only the prosecution (the state) does… She has made her charges, and now it’s up to the judiciary to test them… At the same time, however, Tarun Tejpal does have the right to mount a defense in the court – whatever the nature of the same may be – and it is again up to the courts to decide on the veracity or otherwise of the same… In the same vein, it is within his legal rights to seek “expert” testimony to bolster his point, and to that end it could definitely be argued that he/his family/his counsel is within their rights to show the CCTV footage to others…

    Having said that, the media campaign (read Manu Joseph’s article in the Outlook) is pretty shameful in that it casts aspersions one way or the other on the basis of rank speculation, and without any material evidence (which would be up to the courts to decide anyways)… Also, to respond to Leena’s comment above, at least as far as Delhi is concerned, bail in alleged rape cases has definitely become more difficult since the December 16 incident and, as far as I’ve been told by lawyers and journalists alike, and trial courts are usually leaving it to the High Court to decide… So perhaps Tejpal’s apparently extended custody is perhaps not as much of an aberration as it appears to be…

    However, I think Vrinda correctly hits the nail on the head when she says that the real concern in that the rich, powerful and those well connected to the rich and the powerful in India regularly subvert the judicial process through extra-judicial means and the media, the judiciary and the common public should actively engage with this while evaluating developments, whether while treating this episode as a story (in case of a journalist) or as a criminal case case (in case of a lawyer)

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