Tarun Tejpal: Indian court acquits ‘most feted journalist’ of raping charges

An Indian court acquitted Tarun Tejpal, the former editor of Tehelka magazine, of charges of raping a colleague.

His unnamed accuser had alleged that he assaulted her in an elevator at a Tehelka event in Goa in November 2013.

He was arrested and spent seven months in jail until the Supreme Court granted him bail.

Police had filed charges running into nearly 3,000 pages, accusing him of “wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, assault, sexual harassment and rape by a person in position of authority or control”.

He had denied all the accusations and pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution had put forward a list of 156 witnesses, but in the end, about 70 were cross-examined.

The trial was held “in-camera” which meant journalists were not allowed to be present in court.

The prosecution said they would appeal.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Tejpal requested privacy for his family as “we try to reclaim our broken lives”.

“The past seven and a half years have been traumatic for my family as we have dealt with the catastrophic fallout of these allegations on every aspect of our personal, professional and public lives,” he said.

Mr Tejpal also paid homage to his lawyer Rajeev Gomes who died of Covid-19 last week.

Tarun Tejpal is one of India’s most prominent journalists, Mr Tejpal launched Tehelka in 2000 after decades of working in some of the country’s best-known newspapers and magazines.

Tehelka soon became known for breaking some of the biggest investigative stories in Indian journalism. Its biggest scoop – Operation West End – came in 2001. Reporters posed as arms dealers, offered bribes and prostitutes and secretly filmed army officials, bureaucrats and even the president of then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accepting bribes to push through a fake arms deal.

The revelation brought the Indian government to its knees and boosted Mr Tejpal’s popularity, with The Guardian calling him “India’s most feted journalist”.

Mr Tejpal also set up the publishing house India Ink and counted Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy and Nobel laureate VS Naipaul among his close friends.

He also authored three novels.