Goa court acquits journalist Tarun Tejpal in rape case

In 2013, Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague in a hotel elevator in Goa

Image Courtesy:economictimes.indiatimes.com

A trial court in Goa has acquitted former editor-in-chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal of charges of sexual harassment and rape of his colleague in 2013.

Tejpal was charged for offences under Indian Penal Code sections of 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of force against woman with intent to disrobe), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (2)(f) (person in position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376(2)(k) (rape by person in position of control).

According to Bar & Bench, the judgment was pronounced by Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi and in a statement issued shortly after his acquittal, Tejpal thanked a host of lawyers who represented him in this matter. These lawyers include Pramod Dubey, Aamir Khan, Ankur Chawla, Amit Desai, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Aman Lekhi, Sandeep Kapoor, Raian Karanjawala, Ravi Sharma, Abhimanyu Bhandari and Shrikant Shivade.

This acquittal order comes despite Tejpal’s admission to the assault that was part of the evidence in the trial. As per an Indian Express report, an e-mail sent to the survivor on November 19, and another, titled “Atonement”, sent to Tehelka’s then managing editor Shoma Chaudhury on November 20, along with the survivor’s statement constituted the primary evidence against him.

In the email, with the subject line ‘atonement’, Tejpal wrote: “I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me”.

Besides the email and the survivor’s statements, the crime branch also found a crucial bit of a CCTV footage from the hotel that seemed to have corroborated with the survivor’s statement.

Some have pointed out that Tarun Tejpal’s press release thanking his lawyers and the court for its “rigorous, impartial and fair trial” was prepared even before the verdict, as it carries the date May 19, that is eventually overwritten by May 21. The judgment that was earlier supposed to be pronounced on May 19 was deferred to May 21.  


Women Rights activists have condemned the verdict, questioning the grounds on which he has been acquitted. All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan tweeted, “At the end of it all, the courageous woman did not get even a tiny taste of justice. Rape trials are deeply violent towards survivors. Yet again, a survivor has been demeaned, humiliated, and let down.”

She also highlighted how Tejpal has gotten away with this verdict despite having penned down several apologies admitting to the incident, with the survivor having her integrity “smeared in court and in social parties.”

Women rights activist and cyber safety expert, Akancha Srivastava expressed her displeasure at the judgment and said, “Should girls/women even bother filing formal complaints, fighting cases for decades? Genuine question. What is even the point?”

Equal Rights activist, Harish Iyer also shared his dissatisfaction at the demoralising verdict of the court while speaking to SabrangIndia. He said, “As a fellow rape survivor and as somebody who was a witness in this case, I am utterly disappointed. Our systems should enable women instead of discouraging them.”

Expressing his anguish about how another abuser will walk free, he recalled how there was an “entire campaign to malign her” (survivor), raising questions about her character, the fact that she consumed alcohol or the way she behaved post her assault. He said, “This is disgusting, there is no manual to show how a rape survivor must behave!” Not having any knowledge about whether the complainant will appeal against this order, Mr. Iyer said that we must all support and stand by her, despite all odds.  

Here is a timeline of the 8-year-old sexual assault case:

November 7, 2013:

A junior colleague accuses Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her in Goa’s Grand Hyatt hotel’s elevator.

November 20, 2013:

Tarun steps down as the editor-in-chief in light of the sexual assault allegations.

November 22, 2013:

The Goa police files an FIR against him, based on the survivor’s complaint.

November 30, 2013:

He is arrested by the Goa Police.

February 17, 2014:

Goa’s crime branch files a 2,846-page charge sheet which also contains Tejpal’s formal apology e-mail to the survivor and Tehelka’s then managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury.

July 1, 2014:

After spending over 6 months in jail, the Supreme Court grants him bail and asks him to submit his passport to the court.

26 September, 2017: 

Tejpal makes the plea against framing of charges in the Bombay High Court in Goa, but the court refuses to stay the framing of charges.

September 28, 2017:

Tejpal is officially charged with rape and wrongful confinement by the trial court in Goa.

December 6, 2017:

The Supreme Court directs the trial court to begin trial in the case.

August 9, 2019:

Tejpal moves top court seeking quashing of FIR against him. The SC rejects his plea terming the offence “morally abhorrent” and an “assault on the privacy of the victim”, and asked the trial court to complete trial in six months.

The matter kept getting put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

October 28, 2020:

The Supreme Court asks the court to complete the trial by March 31, 2021.

May 12, 2021:

Case gets listed for judgment but court defers it till May 19.

May 19, 2021:

Case listed for judgment but court defers it till May 21.

May 21, 2021:

Goa trial court acquits Tarun Tejpal of all charges.


MJ Akbar vs Priya Ramani: Pronouncement of judgment deferred till Feb 17
It’s A ‘Lose Lose’ Situation for most Sexual Harassment/Rape Complainants
Redefining public space



Related Articles