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Key Takeaways

  • Due to the high-profile character of the accused and the seriousness of the claims presented, this case drew widespread attention in 2013 and the years that followed. The incident occurred in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case in 2012 when the country was enraged.
  • The Nirbhaya case was significant not just because it revolutionised the country's rape laws, but also because it profoundly influenced how we treated rape victims.
  • The burden of shame was eventually shifted from the victims to the criminals in public discourse. Both of these modifications were significant in the rape case against Tarun Tejpal. He was acquitted by Special Judge Kshyama Joshi.


On May 21, the Mapusa District and Sessions Court in Goa acquitted former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal of sexual harassment and rape charges brought by a colleague in 2013.

Mr Tejpal was accused of raping a colleague in a five-star hotel elevator. The Goa Crime Branch arrested him on November 30, 2013, and the Supreme Court granted him bail on July 1, 2014.

The Goa Crime Branch filed a 2,846-page charge sheet against Mr Tejpal in February 2014.

He was acquitted. The decision was handed down by Special Judge Kshyama Joshi, and the reasons for the acquittal would be revealed in due time. The court filed charges against him on September 29, 2017, under several sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Details Of The Case

The trial began in March 2018 but was halted due to a number of issues, one of which being Mr Tejpal's request for a discharge in the case, which he sought first in the Sessions Court, then in the High Court, and finally in the Supreme Court. In August 2019, the Supreme Court rejected his plea and ordered that the trial be conducted in secret (i.e., without the presence of the public) and concluded within six months.

The trial finally began on December 7, 2020, and the survivor was interrogated and cross-examined via personal presence and video-conferencing for a month, until January 7, 2021.

The prosecution called 71 witnesses, while the defence called four, all of whom were family members of the accused and survivor. The trial ended in late February 2021, and the judgement was reserved after both sides presented their closing arguments.

The court was scheduled to issue its decision on April 27, but it was postponed until May 12 because of a staffing shortage caused by the COVID 19 outbreak. Because of Cyclone Tauktae, it was postponed to May 19 and subsequently to May 21.

“We are profoundly aggrieved,” Mr Tavora added, “and the State will be appealing the judgement.”

In a press release, Mr Tejpal praised the Judge and his lawyers, one of whom died as a result of COVID-19. “As a family, we owe a great and enduring obligation to our advocate Rajiv Gomes,” it said. My family has had a horrible seven-and-a-half year as we have battled with the devastating effects of these false charges on every part of our personal, professional, and public life. In a situation like this, we have made every effort to respect the expected standards of civility.

Timeline Of The Case

November 7, 2013: On the first night of Tehelka's Think festival, Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, sexually abuses a lady employee inside a Grand Hyatt lifts in Bambolim, Goa.

The woman journalist writes to Tehelka Shoma Chaudhary's Managing Editor, outlining her incident. She describes how she was tricked inside and imprisoned within the lift, which was then operated by Mr Tejpal to keep it "in-circuit" in the letter to Ms Chaudhary. The letter is leaked to many media outlets, bringing the subject to the attention of the general public.

November 20, 2013: Tarun Tejpal admits to "misconduct" towards a female journalist in a letter to Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhary, and offers to recuse himself from the role and office for six months.

“The last several days have been extremely difficult, and I completely bear the blame for this,” Mr Tejpal says. An unfortunate incident has resulted from a failure of judgement, an egregious misinterpretation of the circumstances, which runs against everything we believe in and work for.”

“I have already unconditionally apologised to the concerned journalist for my misbehaviour, but I feel compelled to atone even more,” he continues.

November 22, 2013: The National Commission for Women, acting on its own initiative, takes notice of media stories and writes to the Goa Police Department, requesting that an FIR be filed in the case. Separately, the Goa government has turned over the issue to the criminal investigation department.

November 22, 2013: Tehelka announces the formation of a committee to investigate claims of sexual assault levelled against one of its employees in a late-night announcement. It will be led by Urvashi Butalia.

November 23, 2013: The victim claims that attempts were made to pressurise and persuade her family members. "On the night of November 22, 2013, a member of Mr Tejpal's immediate family came to my mother's house in New Delhi, asking my mother to protect Mr Tejpal and demanding to know who I was seeking legal help from and what I "wanted" as a result of my complaint of sexual molestation by Mr Tejpal, which I had made to the Tehelka management earlier this week,”.

November 23, 2013: Two days after opening an investigation into the incident, Goa Police charges Tarun Tejpal with sexual harassment of women at work (prevention, prohibition, and redress) Act, 2013, rape, and outraging a woman's modesty.

November 25, 2013: The victim leaves Tehelka. The woman claims in her letter that she had trusted Ms Chaudhury to take appropriate action, but was upset by her failure. Jay Mazoomdaar, the Tehelka consulting editor, and Revati Laul, Tehelka assistant editor, had earlier resigned in protest of the magazine's handling of the case.

26 November 2013: Urvashi Butalia, a well-known feminist, has refused to lead Tehelka's internal investigation team. She claims that such a panel is "today obsolete." According to Tehelka, numerous other people who had been approached had also declined.

28 November 2013: Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor, resigns after facing criticism from a variety of sources, including the media, for how she handled a junior colleague's sexual harassment complaint against Mr Tejpal. Sarika Faldesai, a Judicial Magistrate First Class in Panaji, Goa, issues a non-bailable arrest warrant for Tehelka Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal on the same day.

30 November 2013: After Sessions Court Judge Anuja Prabhudesai denied his anticipatory bail application, Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal was arrested. The Crime Branch of the Goa police files a charge sheet against Tarun Tejpal, the former Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Panaji, accusing him of rape, sexual harassment, and outraging the modesty of his employee and female journalist.

Inspector and Investigating Officer Sunita Sawant filed a 2846-page charge sheet, which includes 132 pages of the main charge sheet, 30 pages of depositions and statements of witnesses, and 2684 pages of annexure papers, alleging that Tejpal committed crimes punishable under Sections 354, 354-A, 341, 342, 376, 376(2) (f), and 376(2) (k) of the Indian Penal Code. The victim's statements, as well as those of other witnesses, documents, and electronic data, are among the evidence.

July 1, 2014: Mr Tejpal is still being held in judicial custody in Vasco's Sada sub-jail. After nearly six months in prison, Mr Tejpal is granted bail by the Supreme Court. In connection with an alleged rape and sexual abuse complaint brought against him in November 2013, a trial court in Goa formally frames the allegation of rape against former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal. The in-camera trial in the sexual assault case against Mr Tejpal began on March 15, 2018, with a court in Mapusa, North Goa, recording the victim's account. During the trial, the media has been prohibited from the courtroom. Tarun Tejpal and M.J. Akbar, both accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, were suspended by the Editors Guild on December 12, 2018. The Guild has issued a statement.

The Mapusa District and Sessions Court in Goa acquits journalist Tarun Tejpal in the 2013 sexual harassment and rape case of his colleague on May 21, 2021.

The Principles

● The acquittal of Tarun Tejpal by a Goa court has carved out several "ground-breaking" criminal jurisprudence ideas. This article is an attempt to extract some of the principles on why the Court acquitted Tejpal in its 527-page decision.

● The Court's Remarks: Prior to filing her lawsuit, Prosecutrix contacted lawyers and officials of the National Commission for Women.

Deduction: If a rape/sexual assault victim seeks legal assistance in drafting a complaint, this could be used against her in court.
Conclusion: When crafting sexual harassment accusations, complainants should avoid enlisting the assistance of lawyers.

● Court observation: Senior Advocate Rebecca John walked her through the steps of the process.

Deduction: The fact that a lawyer walked a client/friend through the legal process could be used against them at the trial.
Conclusion: Do not seek legal advice while going through the legal process of bringing charges against an accused person.

● Court observation: During the inquiry, a woman rights lawyer was also supporting and counselling the prosecutrix on how she should be delivering her remarks.

Deduction: Women's rights lawyers who aid and guide a complainant on comments made to investigating authorities may be held in contempt of court.
Conclusion: Women's rights attorneys should no longer advise rape victims on how to make statements. Such assistance should not be sought by complainants.

● Court's observation: The prosecutrix's call records suggest that she was also in contact with Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, a lawyer and a feminist, according to a prosecution witness. After the allegations against Tejpal were made public, the prosecutrix and Jaising exchanged phone calls.

Deduction: Having conversations with feminist lawyers over the phone can be used against rape victims.
Conclusion: Do not speak on the phone with feminist Senior Advocates or store their contact information on your phone.

● Prosecutrix is well-educated, works as a journalist, and is familiar with changes to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) following Nirbhaya's case, according to the court. She has written on rape and sexual harassment, as well as other crimes against women.

Deduction: Being well-educated, a journalist, or familiar with rape legislation, particularly after the 2012 modifications, could be used to draw negative inferences against a rape complainant.
Conclusion: Do not attend school or college; do not pursue a career in journalism; and do not seek to learn the IPC, particularly revisions to the IPC.


While Tejpal and his counsel expressed gratitude to extra sessions, Judge Kshama Joshi, the Goa government was disappointed by his acquittal in the case after eight years, and later appealed the judgement. The Goa government challenged Tarun Tejpal's recent acquittal in the 2013 rape case in which a junior colleague at the Tehelka magazine accused him of sexual assault. The bench of Justice SC Gupte heard the matter.

Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India, who was representing the Goa government in its appeal against the acquittal order, told the bench that the judgement and several of its findings are "astonishing." According to Mehta, the ruling also reveals the victim's identity, therefore is a criminal offence.

The Court will ask the Trial Judge to redact any parts of the verdict that reveal the victim's identity, according to Justice SC Gupte.

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