The 58-year-old founder and former editor of Tehelka magazine was accused of raping a colleague in the lift of a five-star hotel in Goa in 2013.
An Indian court has acquitted the former editor of a leading news and investigative magazine accused of raping a female colleague seven years ago in a high-profile case that made headlines across the country.
Tarun Tejpal, the 58-year-old founder and former editor of Tehelka magazine, was accused of raping a female journalist in the lift of a five-star hotel in Goa in November 2013. He was granted bail in 2014.
Tejpal was acquitted of charges of rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint after Judge Kshama Joshi read out a brief order in the presence of Tejpal and his family, his lawyer Suhas Velip told reporters on Friday.
The media were not allowed in the courtroom because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The charge sheet accused Tejpal of rape and wrongfully restraining the woman under newly expanded laws that broaden the definition of rape to include other forms of sexual assault. If convicted, he could have faced up to seven years in prison.
Prosecutors are likely to appeal Tejpal’s acquittal after the detailed ruling becomes available, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
“Seriously aggrieved. The State will be assailing the judgement,” public prosecutor Francisco Tavora told bioreports news agency in a text message.
The survivor, who has since quit the magazine, cannot be named for legal reasons. She did not comment immediately on Tejpal’s acquittal.
The woman said Tejpal assaulted her twice in a hotel elevator in Goa, on November 7 and 8, 2013, when the magazine was hosting its annual conference of Indian leaders, newsmakers and celebrities.
The woman’s duties at the conference involved escorting Robert De Niro and his daughter to events.
After she filed the complaint against him, Tejpal stepped aside at the magazine, which had reported forcefully on gender inequality, corruption and sexual violence in India, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitudes of many Indian men.
Tejpal’s current status at the magazine is unclear.
The case came at a time when India’s record on sexual assault was under the scanner following the fatal gang rape of a New Delhi student in December 2012 that sparked widespread protests and resulted in the strengthening of anti-rape laws.
Tejpal, who has consistently denied the allegations, welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a long-fought for vindication” in a statement read out by his daughter Cara outside the court in Goa.
The statement thanked the court for its “rigorous, impartial and fair trial”.
“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,” the statement said.
But women’s rights campaigners attacked the court’s decision, with activist Kavita Krishnan calling it “very unfortunate”.
“This is a case where there was an enormous amount of evidence and courageous action on the part of the complainant who lost no time in telling people what happened,” Krishnan told bioreports.
“I am aware of how torturous the trial has been for the complainant. The entire process of the trial has put her in the pillory and subjected her to all kinds of cruelties,” she added.