- Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting a colleague in 2013
- He stepped down as Tehelka editor soon after the allegations surfaced
- He has been out on bail since May 2014
Tarun Tejpal, the founder-editor of Tehelka magazine, was acquitted by a court in Goa today of charges of raping a former colleague eight years ago. The Goa government will challenge the order before the High Court, said Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexually assaulting the young woman in an elevator of a five-star resort in Goa during an event in 2013. He was arrested the same year.
In 2017, the trial court charged him with rape, sexual harassment, and wrongful confinement. Tarun Tejpal challenged the charges first in the Bombay High Court and later in the Supreme Court, which ordered that the trial in Goa must continue.
The 58-year-old journalist was present in the court in Mapusa along with his family when the "not guilty" verdict was announced.
Tarun Tejpal's daughter Cara Tejpal read out a statement on her father's behalf, which said he was "falsely accused" of sexual assault. "It is with profound respect that I thank this court for its rigorous, impartial and fair trial and for its thorough examination of CCTV footage and other empirical material on record," said Mr Tejpal, thanking his lawyer Rajiv Gomes, who died of Covid last week.
"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 all through it we have co-operated fully with the Goa police and the legal system, through hundreds of court proceedings," said the statement.
Mr Tejpal was quoted by news agency ANI as saying: "It's been a long nightmare for my family. I'm relieved that it is finally over and I'm very grateful to have received justice because it is not always the given thing in this country anymore."
The Goa government said it was studying the order. "We will not tolerate any injustice to be meted out to women in Goa. We will challenge the district court order before the High Court soon," Pramod Sawant said.
The Tehelka allegations exploded with the leak of a series of emails in which the woman complained to her seniors at Tehelka and Mr Tejpal.
Mr Tejpal stepped down as Tehelka Editor soon after, saying he was "recusing" himself for six months. He was arrested on in November 2013. He has been out on bail since May 2014.
In a 2,684-page chargesheet filed before the Goa fast-track court, the police had said there was enough evidence against him.
Mr Tejpal had maintained that CCTV footage absolved him and had approached the Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court in 2017 dismissed his request to scrap the case.