Tarun Tejpal, the founder and former editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, was told by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it would hear the Goa government’s appeal against his acquittal in a 2013 rape case after three weeks, Live Law reported.
Spanning over seven years with numerous witnesses, colleagues’ statements, CCTV footage, e-mails and WhatsApp messages by the prosecution, last month the Goa Sessions Court acquitted Tejpal of all charges claiming that the survivor “did not demonstrate” a rape victim behaviour as she did not look “terrified or traumatised” enough.
Issuing the notice, the high court said that the session court’s judgment “appears to provide a manual on how rape victims should behave”.
In the 527-page order passed by the Goa Sessions Court , it based its judgment on the interpretation of the survivor taking legal advice from advocate Indira Jaising, who is also the author of the book Sexual Harassment at Workplace. Representing the state, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he, too, was a feminist and told the court, “If the victim would have come to me I would have asked her to go to Ms Indira Jaising or Ms Rebecca John. She is a feminist.”
“This judgment and the approach shows a complete lack of sensitivity and knowledge on this subject. The law has evolved. The entire judgment proceeds as if the victim is on trial,” Mehta said.
Tejpal was accused of forcing himself on one of his junior colleagues inside an elevator of the Grand Hyatt, Bambolim, Goa on November 7 and 8, 2013 during the Think 13 festival, Tehelka‘s official annual event.
On November 18, 2013, the survivor filed a complaint with the magazine’s then managing editor and journalist Shoma Chaudhry.
Soon, Tejpal sent a formal “unconditional” apology to the survivor “for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me”.
Calling the incident a “bad lapse of judgement”, Tejpal wrote another letter to Chaudhry.
The survivor had insisted on setting up an anti-sexual harassment cell under the Vishakha guidelines to investigate the matter. She claimed that Tejpal’s apology presented an “entirely different version” from her testimony with his attempts to establish that a “sexual liaison took place as opposed to him sexually molesting me”.
Tejpal eventually stepped down as the editor for six months.
After his anticipatory bail was rejected by a local court in Goa, Tejpal was arrested on November 30, 2013. He was tried for committing offences punishable under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354 (sexual harassment), 354A (1) (I) (II) (demand for sexual favours), 354B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 376 (2) (f) (person in a position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376 (2) (k) (rape by a person in a position of control) of the Indian Penal Code.
In February 2014, the Goa Police Crime Branch filed a 2,846-page charge sheet against him.
Following the judgement, the Goa government moved the Bombay High Court challenging Tejpal’s acquittal seeking a retrial in the case, mentioning that the judgement was “coloured by prejudice and patriarchy”.