New Delhi, Oct 5 (PTI) The Supreme Court sought to know on Monday as to why witnesses in the 2013 sexual assault case against Tehelka magazine founder Tarun Tejpal cannot be examined via video-conferencing when trials are being held this way due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When trials are going on across the country virtually, then why cannot witnesses be examined through video-conferencing,” a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked.
The bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, said this while hearing an application filed by the Goa government seeking extension of time to complete the trial in the case.
The top court had in August last year asked Goa’s trial court to complete the case preferably within six months.
Tejpal is alleged to have sexually assaulted a former woman colleague inside an elevator of a five-star hotel in Goa in 2013. He has denied the allegations levelled against him.
He was arrested on November 30, 2013, by the crime branch after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the court. He has been out on bail since May 2014.
During the hearing conducted in the apex court through video-conferencing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that the state government has moved an application for extension of time to conclude the trial. Mehta said the complainant is suffering from lung infection and time to conclude the trial be extended.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Tejpal, said he is opposing the plea and would file a reply.
“Why cannot court examine witnesses through video-conferencing,” the bench observed, adding that “time has to be extended.” However, Sibal said, “We need to file a reply. They are seeking one-year time for completion of trial. I have serious objections to examination of witness.” Sibal said Tejpal is not in favour of witnesses being examined through video-conferencing in the case.
The bench granted one week to Tejpal to file a reply on the application and posted the matter for hearing on October 15.
The trial court in Mapusa town of Goa had framed charges against Tejpal under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including alleged sexual harassment.
The apex court had last year dismissed Tejpal’s plea seeking quashing of charges framed against him in the case. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA