In a major setback, the Goa government lost the rape case against former editor-in-chief of Tehelka after a metropolitan magistrate court on Friday acquitted the senior journalist of rape charges, filed by a junior colleague who had accused Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her in a five-star resort in Goa in 2013.
Goa government will not tolerate any wrong done to a woman, said Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and added that his government would appeal against the verdict in the Bombay High Court.
According to Special Public Prosecutor Francisco Tavora, the verdict was a “serious setback” and the state government will be preparing to file an appeal against the order in the High Court.
Tejpal has been booked under sections under sections 376 (rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement) 354A (sexual harassment) and 354B (criminal assault), of the Indian Penal Code.
“He has been acquitted from all charges. Order not given yet. It will be uploaded later,” Tejpal’s defence counsel said.
Reacting to the order, Tejpal said that he was relieved to have received justice, adding that justice was not “always a given thing in this country”.
“It has been a very long nightmare for my family. I am relieved that it is finally over. And I am very grateful to have received justice, because justice is not always a given thing in this country,” Tejpal told reporters outside the court complex.
In a formal written statement Tejpal also said: “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. We have felt the boot of the state, but through it all we have cooperated fully with the Goa Police and the legal system, through hundreds of hours of court proceedings”.
“We have unwaveringly followed every mandate of due procedure and abided by every principle of law laid in the Constitution. We have also endeavoured to uphold every norm of decency expected in a case like this,” Tejpal said in a written statement, while thanking the court for its “rigorous, impartial and fair trial”.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Tavora said claimed that the prosecution team was seriously aggrieved by the order, which he said would be challenged in the Bombay High Court.
“Accused has been acquitted of all charges. We are waiting for a copy of the judgement, but the state will be preparing for an appeal against the judgement. That’s all that I can say at this point,” Tavora told reporters.
“Initially, the accused wanted to be discharged from the case, so he went to the SC and got a stay order. That is how the trial was stopped for a good two years. It was resumed in August 2019. Since September 2020, it has been going on on a day-to-day basis,” Tavora said.
Reacting to the verdict, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that the state of Goa would not tolerate any injustice against women.
“The Goa government will not tolerate any wrong done to a woman. We are filing an appeal (against the verdict) in the High Court,” Sawant said, adding that he had already spoken to the special public prosecutor and the investigating officer about the appeal.
The Chief Minister also said that he had seen the evidence on record and documents related to the case and was personally convinced that the verdict should be appealed against.
According to the complaint filed against Tejpal by the junior colleague, the rape allegedly occurred on November 7, during a conference organised by the Tehelka media group in 2013.
Tejpal subsequently stepped down as editor of Tehelka on November 20, three days before the Goa Police filed a First Information Report against him accusing him of rape.
Tejpal was arrested on November 30, after a local court rejected his anticipatory bail application.
After his arrest, Tejpal spent nearly eight months in police and judicial custody. He was later released on bail by the Supreme Court, months after a 2,846 page charge sheet by the Crime Branch of the Goa Police.
Charges against Tejpal were later framed by the trial court in Goa in 2017, paving way for the trial.