Tehelka Former Editor Tarun Tejpal Acquitted in Rape Case by Bombay High Court, Goa Bench

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Case: Tarun Jit Tejpal vs The State of Goa & Anr.

Case Excerpt

The District and Sessions Court in Goa, which is hearing the Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case, has been instructed by a Vacation Bench of the Bombay High Court. 

Facts of the Case

The said accused was the Chief Editor and Founder of Tehelka Magazine. The FIR was filed by his colleague who was working under him and accused Mr Tejpal of sexually assaulting her in a five-star resort in a lift in 2013. For the same Tejpal has been booked under section 376 (rape), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354A (sexual harassment), and 354B (criminal assault) of the Indian Penal Code. On November 20, three days before the Goa Police presented a First Information Report against Tehelka, Tejpal then went down to act as editor of Tehelka on charges of rape. The local court dismissed its anticipatory bail request after Tejpal was detained on 30 November. Tejpal spent over eight months in police and court imprisonment following his detention. The Supreme Court then freed him on bail, months after a 2,846-page charge sheet from the Goa Police Critical Branch. The trial court in Goa in 2017, opening the path for the trial, subsequently brought charges against Tejpal.

Queries Raised & Responded

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The victim protested to the then managing editor, Shoma Chaudhry, another acclaimed reporter, on November 18, 2013, a few days after the event. The following day there was an email sent to the victim as a formal apology in which Tejpal said, “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.” Meanwhile, on 22 November 2013, the Goa Police acknowledged and complained about the connection with suo moto cognisance in front of the page. Tejpal argued that he had been framed, that the case was a political scheme, particularly because BJP was Goa’s leading political party. He was arrested on 30th November 2013 and then got a regular bail in July 2014 by the Apex Court. In the later months, in February 2014 Goa Crime Branch filed a 2846 charge sheet against him. The Sessions Court authorized Tejpal, three years later, in June 2017, to proceed with the proceeding in camera to safeguard the dignity of both parties. The Court brought accusations against him on 28 September 2017, and the victim testified in March 2018. Seventy-one witnesses and five defence witnesses were questioned by the prosecution. The prosecution principally depends upon the victim’s statement, her coworkers’ testimony, and electronic evidence including CCTV data, e-mails, and conversations from Whatsapp. In August 2019, a Supreme Court seat of Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai SC dismissed Tejpal’s supplication to suppress the charges against him. Naming the offence “morally abhorrent” and an “assault on the privacy of the victim”. The seat guided the Sessions Court to finish the proceedings within a half year. The arraignment at that point recorded a strengthening charge sheet in January this year, referring to ten additional observers. In March, the indictment and protection contentions closed contentions and the case was saved for orders.

Court’s Analysis

As statements were given by Court it was duly observed as the following, 

“It appears from the order of the Sessions Judge, which is available to this court (not yet uploaded on trial court website) contains the reference to the victim’s husband and also her email id. Considering the law against disclosure of the identity of the victim of an offence such as the one in which we are concerned, it is in the interest of justice to have these paras redacted. We direct the trial court to redact the identities, whilst uploading the judgement. State’s counsel points out that there is a reference to the victim’s mother’s name in one of the paragraphs which should also be redacted. Court directs accordingly.”

Court’s Decision

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The Court acquitted Tarun Tejpal from rape charges.


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