(First published in Huffington Post India on 23 January 2014.)
Thank you, Mid-Day newspaper, you did a great service today. You published a stupid piece of opinion by Malavika Sangghvi, asking us to sympathise with a rape accused named Tarun Jit Tejpal. Twitter and TV alike had forgotten Mr Tejpal’s action, which your newspaper describes as a “grave error”. But thanks to you, people have been reminded of it.
And people are asking: what happened to his trial? Tejpal was arrested on 30 November 2013, about 31 months ago. There was a huge media campaign to get him bail, which he did get about seven months after his arrest. We are in June 2016 and the trial is yet to begin.
Don’t you think it’s a travesty of justice that the trial hasn’t even begun? That is the question we should be asking. That is what we should have a media campaign about. Justice. After all, if Mr Tejpal is innocent, he should also be after only one thing: justice. Once he manages to be declared innocent by the law, you can sympathise with him all you want.
So let us ask again: Where is the trial? Tejpal has hired a battery of the best lawyers in the country, and they have managed to delay the trial so much so that twenty-six months later the trial has not even begun! His lawyers come up with some excuse or the other to delay the trial, and the delay is granted.
The new anti-rape law says trial should be completed within two months of filing the chargesheet. The chargesheet was filed in February 2014.
Malavika Sangghvi writes, “the relentless media campaign that shredded the once darling of the intelligentsia could be regarded as excessive.” But isn’t her article also a part of the counter trial by media to exonerate and forgive him? Isn’t she blatantly arguing for Tejpal’s “rehabilitation” rather than his trial? Does she have any respect for the law of the land?
That the trial hasn’t even begun 26 months later shows how the rich and the powerful can game the system. At this speed, the trial may not be over for another 20 years. And there is no outrage.
Twitter is outraging that “liberals” are trying to rehabilitate Tejpal. Sorry, Malavika Sangghvi does not represent liberals.
While we are outraging, we may want to consider that there is a BJP government at power now at the centre and also in Goa. When Tejpal was arrested, there was a Congress government in power in Delhi, many were seeing a political conspiracy. But if this case was politically coloured, as we were told, then why is the BJP, with governments at centre and state alike, not going after Tejpal?
For Sangghvi, Tejpal’s “grave error” “pricked the bubble of his public image and gave his detractors ammunition to demolish him, but was there really need for such a vociferous dragging through the coals?”
Can she for a moment think about the victim? The hounding she faces if she pursues the trial? The questions she has to answer if she does not pursue the trial? Can Malavika Sangghvi for a moment think about what it is like for a twentysomething to be sexually violated by her boss? For going through that, can Ms Sangghvi please employ superlatives such as “dragging through the coals?”
The evidence against Tarun Tejpal is way too strong – the emails, the SMSes and so on – but the wheels of justice have been brought to a halt by influential lawyers and a media campaign by Tejpal’s friends such as Malavika Sangghvi. For publishing such apologies for rape, Mid-Day, you should be ashamed of yourself.