Former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal, who was accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague inside the elevator of a luxury hotel in Goa in 2013, has been acquitted of all charges. More details about the order, which was pronouced by Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi on Friday, May 21, are awaited. Tejpal was facing trial under Indian Penal Code Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty), 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 376(2)(f) (person in position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376(2)k) (rape by person in position of control). He has been acquitted of all charges, Live Law reported.
Tejpal and his family were present in the court but the media was not allowed inside. After the verdict was pronounced, Tarun Tejpal’s daughter Cara Tejpal came out of the court and read out a statement, saying that Tarun Tejpal has mourned his lawyer who died due to COVID-19, and has thanked Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi for acquitting him. “In an awfully vitiated age, where ordinary courage has become rare, I thank her for standing by the truth,” the statement read. Terming the allegations “false," Tejpal said the last seven-and-a-half years have been traumatic for his family.
The order against Tejpal was to be pronounced on May 19, but public prosecutor Francis Tavora had told reporters outside the court that Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi said she could not pronounce the order due to a power failure for the three days. Several parts of Goa witnessed power outages due to cyclonic storm Tauktae.
This was the third time that the court adjourned pronouncement of the verdict in the case. Earlier, the court was to deliver the verdict on April 27, but the judge had adjourned it to May 12. On May 12, it was further adjourned to May 19. The court had then said the adjournment was due to lack of staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, Tejpal was present in the court along with some of his family members and lawyers. Media persons were barred from entering the court. Heavy police security was deployed around the court building, located in Mapusa town near the state capital Panaji. Tejpal refused to speak to reporters after the court adjourned pronouncement of the verdict in the case. The Goa police registered an FIR against Tejpal in November 2013 following which he was arrested. He has been out on bail since May 2014.
The arguments in the matter were held in-camera by the North Goa district and sessions court in Mapusa town during which 71 prosecution witnesses and five defence witnesses were examined. The Goa crime branch had filed a 2,846 pages chargesheet against Tejpal in February, 2014. After the case was registered against him, Tejpal denied the allegations saying they were part of a "political vendetta" by the BJP government in Goa. He had earlier moved the Bombay High Court, seeking a stay on the framing of charges against him, but his petition was dismissed.
With PTI inputs