The acquittal of Tarun Tejpal, then editor/owner of the Tehelka magazine, by a trial court in Goa of rape charges comes as a shock, says the Delhi Union of Journalists.
Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi has chosen to reserve the order, so the reasoning behind the acquittal is not yet known. However, we are surprised at such a verdict in a case where the accused editor had himself practically acknowledged that he was guilty. Tejpal had written a letter asking for forgiveness from the young woman journalist for his “shameful lapse of judgement” shortly after the incident in Nov. 2013. He had described his actions as an attempt at a “sexual liaison”.
After the issue became public, the Goa Police filed a suo moto case, as allegations flew thick and fast that the BJP government wanted to ‘fix’ a progressive mediaperson known for his inconvenient journalism. Opinion among journalists was divided and the victim, who was a junior employee and a close friend of Tejpal’s daughter, was criticised/supported by many in the community. The case went on for seven and a half years, until the verdict on May 21, 2021.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said that the state will appeal against the verdict. The wheels of the judicial system move slowly. The brave young victim’s struggle will have to go on.