A session court in Goa on Friday acquitted journalist Tarun Tejpal in the sexual assault case filed against him, reported ANI. Tejpal, the former editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, was accused of raping a junior colleague in an elevator in 2013.
Tejpal has been acquitted of all charges, his lawyer, Suhas Velip, told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Goa government has said that it will move the High Court against Tejpal’s acquittal in the case, the PTI reported. “We will not tolerate any injustice to be meted out to the women in Goa,” Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, adding that he had discussed the matter of challenging the verdict with the public prosecutor and the investigating officer in the case. Sawant claimed that there was enough evidence against the accused.
In a statement released on Friday after the verdict, Tejpal thanked his lawyer Rajiv Gomes, who died of the coronavirus last week. The journalist claimed that the last seven-a-half-years had been traumatic for his family as they had to deal with the “catastrophic fallout of these false accusations”.
“We have felt boot of the state, but thorough it all we have co-operated fully with the Goa police and the legal system, through hundreds of court proceedings,” the statement said.
Tejpal also thanked the court and Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi for her verdict. “It is with profound respect that I thank this court for its rigorous, impartial, and fair trial and for it thorough examination of the CCTV footage and other empirical material on record,” Tejpal said.
The verdict was expected earlier but deferred multiple times. On Wednesday, when the ruling was deferred to Friday, Tejpal’s lawyer Suhas Velip had said that that it was because the additional sessions court judge at Mapusa could not work as there was no electricity for the last 2-3 days.
The court had earlier deferred the verdict on May 12, citing the lack of staff because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before that, the ruling was deferred on April 27.
In September 2017, a trial court in Goa had charged Tejpal with rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint. He had pleaded not guilty. However, in an internal email, Tejpal had blamed the incident on a “lapse of judgement”.
The Goa Police had filed a chargesheet in the case in 2014.
He was charged under 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) of the Indian Penal Code.
The trial began in September 2017 but was delayed repeatedly as Tejpal moved the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court against the allegations. Both the Supreme Court and the High Court had dismissed his petitions seeking to quash the rape charges against him.