On June 2nd, the Bombay High Court issued a notice to the Founder and former Editor-in-chief of Tehelka Magazine, Tarun Tejpal, over an appeal by the Goa Government, challenging his acquittal against charges of rape and sexual assault to a female colleague in 2013. The matter will be heard next on the 24th of June.
Mr. Tejpal was acquitted of all charges of sexual assault by the trial court on May 21st.
His release statement read by his daughter said, “In November 2013, I was falsely accused of sexual assault by a colleague. Today the hon’ble trial court of additional sessions judge Kshama Joshi, in Goa, has honourable acquitted me.”.
“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.”, he added.
Agitated by his release, the state of Goa appealed to challenge his acquittal in the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court. The Bombay HC accepted the plea and sent a notice to Tejpal regarding the same.
Story behind the case
Tarun Tejpal was accused of rape and sexual assault by a female colleague back in November 2013. The case read that he had sexually harassed her in the elevator of a five-star hotel in Goa while attending an event.
The Goa police flagged an investigation and filed an FIR against him on November 21st and 23rd respectively. He was charged under 7 sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
In the wake of these allegations, Tejpal stepped down as the Editor-in-chief of the Tehelka magazine on November 30th the same year. After being under arrest, he was granted bail and released in July of 2014. After a series of court sessions and legal work over the years, Tejpal was acquitted of all charges on May 21, 2021.
Tarun had also written an apology mail to the victim back in 2013 that read, “I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgment that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on November 7th and November 8th, 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me”.
This apology email, which goes in contradiction with his release statement, was pointed out by the Goa government in its appeal to challenge his release. They stated in the appeal that the email “established the guilt of the accused beyond a shadow of a doubt”. They also said that the case was fit for a retrial as the trial court lacked an understanding of the victim’s post-traumatic behaviour.
What makes this case crucial?
This case caught the attention of the nation as it took into account the behaviour of the victim as evidence. The victim, as claimed, did not show any signs of trauma and did not “behave” like a victim of sexual assault.
The trial court in the hearing that acquitted Tejpal stated that the victim did not show any “normative behaviour” that someone who has undergone sexual assault plausibly shows.
The Bombay HC countered the trial court’s judgement by calling it a “manual for rape victims” as it implied upon how rape victims are expected to portray themselves. The appeal against Tejapl’s release will next be heard on the 24th of June, 2021.