Redact mentions of rape survivor’s identity in Tarun Tejpal verdict: Bombay HC

City Law

Tushar Mehta argued that the judgement by Justice Kshama Joshi disclosed the identity of the complainant.

Indore: A special vacation bench of the Bombay High Court has directed the sessions court to remove all mention of the rape survivor’s identity in the recent Tarun Tejpal verdict. 

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta appeared in the court on behalf of the Goa Government to challenge Tejpal’s acquittal in the rape case. Mehta cited section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and said that some things in the judgement were “astonishing”. Section 228A of the IPC states that anyone who prints or publishes the name or other information that might reveal the identity of any person against whom an offence (such as rape) is committed, shall be liable to be fined and imprisoned for up to two years. 

In the 527-page verdict, Justice Kshama Joshi had said that the complainant “did not show any kind of normative behaviour,” that a sexual assault victim might show. “As per this judgement, any victim of sexual assault has to exhibit her trauma, and unless she does that her testimony cannot be believed,” Mehta argued. He also said that the judgement discloses the identity of the complainant, her husband and her e-mail ID.

The single bench of Justice SC Gupte has deferred the hearing to June 2 , 2021, and citing the law against disclosure of the identity of the victim of an offence, said,  “It is in the interest of justice to have these paragraphs redacted.”

Defending the Goa Government’s decision to appear before the special bench and not go to a regular court, Mehta said that the system is expected to be sensitive towards such issues. “Normally, I would have bowed down. But in this case, there is so much in the judgment. It is important for women to know that the High Court took immediate cognisance. We owe it to our girls,” he said.

Shraddha Gome, an advocate at the Madhya Pradesh High Court, explained that the High Court’s direction to redact references about complainant’s identity is very much in the interest of justice. “Considering the legislative intent and social object behind the provision, the apex court in Bhupinder Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2003) cautioned the judges that even in the judgments, be it of High Court or lower Court, the name of the victim should not be indicated,” she said. “Thus, the disclosure of the victim’s personal details in the judgement is not only insensitive but also illegal,” she added.

The State had filed an appeal against Tejpal’s acquittal on all charges by the District and Sessions Court at Mapusa, Goa, on May 25, 2021. In November 2013, Tejpal was accused of forcing himself on a woman without her consent.