NEW DELHI: The Bombay High Court at Goa on Thursday directed sessions judge Kshama Joshi, who acquitted journalist Tarun Tejpal in a 2013 sexual assault case, to redact portions of her judgement that could reveal the identity of the woman before the order is uploaded on the judicial portal.
However, the judgement is already in public domain. Justice SC Gupte's order came while the bench was hearing an urgent appeal by the Goa government, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, challenging the May 21 judgement. The court also gave Goa government three days to put the order on record and amend the grounds of appeal.
According to section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, disclosure of the identity of victims of certain offences is punishable. Supreme Court, in a ruling, had said: "Keeping in view the social object of preventing the victims or ostracising of victims, it would be appropriate that in judgments of all the courts the name of the victim should not be indicated."
In March this year, the top court had passed a ruling for judges while handling cases of sexual crimes against women. "The role of all courts is to make sure that the survivor can rely on their impartiality and neutrality, at every stage in a criminal proceeding, where she is the survivor and an aggrieved party. Even an indirect undermining of this responsibility... shakes the confidence of the rape survivor (or accuser of the crime) in the impartiality of the court," he said.
Even Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court there is no course on gender compulsorily taught in law schools, and that some law schools have the subject either as a specialisation or as an elective. Sensitisation of judges, especially those dealing with sexual assault cases and rape, should be done.
In her judgement, sessions judge Joshi said the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and gave Tejpal the benefit of doubt. She also questioned “contradictions” in the victim’s testimony, her post-assault conduct and the "destruction" of inconvenient evidence by the prosecution.
Sessions court judge’s question
Acquitting Tejpal, the court had held the woman's behaviour was a key factor, saying if she wasn’t in good state of mind, why would she disclose her location.