On Friday, May 21, the District and Sessions Court at Mapusa, North Goa, acquitted Tarun Tejpal, the founder-editor of Tehelka magazine, of rape charges.
He was accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague in an elevator of the Grand Hyatt in Goa's Bambolim on November 7 and 8, 2013. The incident took place during an event - the THiNK 13 festival, organised by the newsmagazine.
Tejpal's daughter Cara Tejpal read out a statement on her father's behalf, in which said he was 'falsely accused of sexual assault and that the seven-and-a-half years have been traumatic for his family.
"I thank this court for its rigorous, impartial and fair trial and its thorough examination of CCTV footage and other empirical material on record. The past seven-and-a-half years have been traumatic for my family as we have dealt with the catastrophic fallout of these false allegations on every aspect of our personal, professional and public lives," NDTV quoted the statement.
The verdict in the seven-year-old case was reserved last month by Additional Sessions, Judge Kshama Joshi.
Tejpal faced charges under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 376 (2)(f) (person in a position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376(2)(k) (rape by a person in a position of control) of the Indian Penal Code.
A Timeline Of The Case
On November 30, 2013, the junior colleague complained to Tehelka's then managing editor, Shoma Chaudhry. The following day, Tejpal sent a formal apology to the woman in which he had written:
"I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on November 7 and November 8, 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me," LiveLaw quoted.
However, the woman insisted on setting up an anti-sexual harassment cell under the Vishakha guidelines and investigating the matter. "Given that his apology presents an entirely different version from my testimony, i.e. attempt to establish that a 'sexual liaison' took place as opposed to him sexually molesting me, I insist once again in the spirit of justice, to constitute an anti-sexual harassment cell in accordance with the Vishakha Guidelines," read the woman's official statement.
Following this, Tejpal stepped down as editor for six months, stating that he wished to allow a fair trial.
Taking cognisance of the issue, the Goa Police, on November 22, 2013, registered a complaint. Tejpal denied all the allegations levelled against him and called it a political conspiracy for framing him in the case.
He approached a local court in the state, but his anticipatory bail plea was rejected, leading to his arrest on November 30, 2013. The state crime branch also filed a 2,846-page chargesheet against him in February 2014. However, after spending seven months behind bars, Tejpal was granted bail by the Supreme Court in July 2014.
But he was still contesting the accusations. According to the news portal, in 2017, the Sessions Court allowed Tejpal's application to conduct the trial in-camera.
On September 28, 2017, the court levelled charges against him. The complainant testified in March 2018. Statements of the complainant's colleagues were recorded. Nearly 71 witnesses were examined, and five defence witnesses cross-examined. The court also looked into the CCTV footage, emails and WhatsApp chats.
The trials resumed in October, after Tejpal's plea to dismiss the charges was rejected by Bombay High Court and Supreme Court.