The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim protection against arrest to Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal, who has been accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague on November 7 and 8 at a hotel in Goa.
Justice Sunita Gupta also asked the counsel for the Goa police to file its reply, if any, and fixed the hearing of Tejpal's anticipatory bail plea for hearing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police also opposed the plea for grant of any transit bail to Tejpal who termed the FIR as politically motivated, alleging that the Goa chief minister was taking undue interest in the matter.
"I am opposing the matter due to the seriousness of the allegations against the accused," the counsel for the Goa police said, adding that he has not been supplied with the copy of the petition by the accused journalist.
Senior advocate K T S Tulsi and Geeta Luthra, appearing for Tejpal, said that the Tehelka editor be protected against any possible arrest till Wednesday when this court will recommence hearing on the bail application.
Refusing to grant interim protection, Justice Gupta said, "I don't have even the copy of the FIR with the petition. Let them file the reply then I will see...."
Tulsi submitted, "This has become a political battle. I am entitled to interim protection as has been the practice in this court.
"At best, the case is of section 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) of the IPC and it is the figment of imagination that it has become a case of section 376 (rape) of the IPC. Even the girl has not made any statement to the police."
At the start of the hearing, the counsel for the Goa police sought one week's time to respond to the petition of Tejpal and opposed the submission seeking grant of any interim protection against his arrest.
Tejpal has moved the high court seeking either anticipatory bail or transit bail "to enable him to approach the appropriate court for seeking the relief in accordance with the law".
Terming one of the two incidents as "only light hearted bantering", the petition said, "The nature of the said meeting can be easily established by perusal of CCTV footage of Hotel Hyatt, Goa, which is within the knowledge and reach of the Goa police but the same has been blatantly ignored by the investigating agency. That on November 8, 2013 a further meeting took place between the two individuals but the same lasted for few seconds and contained no incident, which could constitute commission of a cognisable offence."
Tejpal said that his woman colleague "continued to party and was completely normal and friendly all throughout her stay in Goa".
"She was at every party and social event through the conference and stayed out late in the night."
Terming the complaint of the victim as "motivated, false and an afterthought", the petition said it was filed after a delay of 10 days. It also refuted the allegations.
"The Managing Editor (of the magazine), however, refused to even listen to the applicant's version and overrode him, telling him that she was making the decision in Tehelka's interest," it said.
The alleged incident happened in a lift in a five-star hotel in Goa.
The Goa police had on November 22 lodged an FIR against Tejpal under sections 376 (rape), 376 (2)(k) (rape by a person of a woman in his custody taking advantage of his official position) and 354 (outraging modesty) of IPC in connection with the incident.
Conviction under section 376 of IPC entails a maximum of life term in jail.
The issue came into the limelight when an email by the magazine's woman journalist, who resigned yesterday, alleging sexual assault, was made public and Tejpal announced on November 19 that he was "recusing" from his job for six months.
On November 24, a three-member Goa police team, which had come to Delhi, quizzed Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury and three employees who had been contacted by the alleged victim to corroborate her version.
The police has seized from the Tehelka office a hard disk, transcripts of emails exchanged among Tejpal, Choudhury and the woman and other documents.