How new rape law caught up with Tarun J. Tejpal


Tehelka founder-editor Tarun J. Tejpal has been in jail for over 80 days now on the charge of “raping” a junior colleague during an event organised by the magazine at a Goa resort. The Goa police have charged him on seven counts under the new rape law that came into effect after the Delhi gangrape in end-2012.

Meanwhile, there is a subtle but noticeable shift in the discourse in drawing rooms on the plight of the high-profile journalist, as the words “witchhunt” and “political vendetta” are bandied about loosely.

Is “a 10-year prison sentence for three minutes of non-penile misconduct in a moving lift*” just? Is politically correct India making a big issue of a “small offence”? Is the new law too harsh and far removed from the emerging male-female relationship in the modern Indian workplace, etc?

Those questions which were being asked sotto voce, have found open expression in chain e-mails and posts on social media. A former Tehelka journalist writes in a Pakistani newspaper that Tejpal’s “friends and family are going around meeting editors and opinion-makers to argue their case”.

Those questions also reveal ignorance and incomprehension of the new rape law, which, as The Times of India story (in image, above) demonstrates is being applied not just on Tarun Tejpal but also on other sexual offenders since it came into force in April 2013.

The women’s rights lawyer Vrinda Grover explicates Tejpal’s case in a column in Outlook*:

“In the case of Tarun Tejpal, it’s an aggravated rape because, by his own admission and by the statement of the complainant, he was in a position of dominance, trust and authority having known her father, as well as being her boss. These are statements of fact.

“The law has expanded the coercive circumstances to include these categories. Nothing dramatic has happened now, but everyone is getting very anxious.

“I’m very puzzled at the high level of anxiety from men in all professions. Is it really that men are doing this so rampantly that they are suddenly in panic mode? That they have been putting their body parts into women without their consent?

“In that case I have a word of advice to them: now this is the law, don’t do it, and if you do it, you will be arrested. And if the courts deem it fit, you’ll be punished. That’s a hard-won reality. The new law just clarified what consent meant. It said there has to be an unequivocal, voluntary agreement by word or gesture.

“In the case of Tarun Tejpal, the victim is saying to him, ‘Don’t do it, stop it’. How can that message not go across? If you continue to do it, then I’m sorry, it’s a crime.”

Former Tehelka journalist Shivam Vij takes up a couple of more bogeys being bandied about in drawning rooms, in the Pakistan paper, Express Tribune:

“Firstly, we are told about trial by media. What’s funny here is that when the Indian media began its culture of doing campaign activism for one or two cases, Tehelka had a key role to play. It was Tehelka that mobilised youth and TV cameras at India Gate to ask for justice for a murdered model, Jessica Lal. Tehelka even did a sting operation on the issue. Nobody wondered how the accused felt about such a trial by the media.

“Secondly, Tejpal wants a trial by media. Since his legal case is so weak — he’s admitted his crime on email — he knows the only battle possible to win is the media battle. His friends and family are going around meeting editors and opinion-makers to argue their case. They’ve also taken to Twitter to argue their case. A mass email was sent out by someone who used the victim’s photograph to say that she looks okay and suggests her allegation is false. Why would his reporter, who worked with him for four years, accuse him of rape?

“So, while the Tejpal campaign has the right to make its case before the media, the media does not have the right to ask tough questions of him? You ask him why his versions have been changing and it becomes trial by media? He wants the CCTV footage released to media and public so that we can voyeuristically watch and decide if the victim looks traumatised or not? That’s not trial by media?

“Then there is the issue of bail. Tejpal has been in jail since November 30 and hasn’t got bail. That is because bail in rape cases is difficult in India, for everyone. Asaram Bapu, religious guru far more popular than Tejpal, has been in jail without bail for far longer on rape charges. Why should the law make an exception for Tejpal?”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as Tehelka editor

Online appeal to protect Tehelka journalist’s identity


  1. According to Gary Becker,Fines are preferable to imprisonment and other types of punishment because they are more efficient. With a fine, the punishment to offenders is also revenue to the State.

  2. Steven Boyd


    Look! This is a man who has suffered enough. 81 days in a filthy prison for a 60 second grope is punishment enough. He may be accused of rape, but it could be just a aggressive hug. He said it was a misunderstanding of the situation in his e mail, there were no ‘specifics’ that he confessed to.
    But his detractors have found him guilty of rape even before a trial.
    Its one young woman’s word against his, (there is no medical or forensic evidence) that’s all the evidence we have of rape.
    Finger penetration is the woman’s version. Tejpal did not admit to that in his e mail.
    The Goa police charge sheet says it was virginal penetration with Tejpal’s tongue.
    If the women is resisting, in my opinion, it would be quite difficult to.
    (a) Remove women’s clothes
    (b) Penetrate with tongue.
    (c) All this in sixty seconds, did the woman knee his face or move her hips away?
    (d) To hold a resisting young woman’s, strong hips steady, while penetrating with tongue is impossible.
    Now for all we know, it could have been just be a fond kiss. and the woman making the rest up, in a self delusional kind of way.
    Tejpal has only said sorry for an unfortunate incident, in his e mail.
    Every man is entitled to his previous good name to be taken to consideration, he should have got bail on the first day. If it proved to be just a grope Tejpal has NOW served his sentence already ten times over in prison.
    He will not intimidate the victim if he gets bail, as alleged by Police, the victim is a very resourceful woman, she has now got herself a job paying one lakh a month and is writing a book about rape funded by a large organization. It is alleged that she makes sure, on meeting strangers at parties, they are made aware, about her famous rape case.
    Meanwhile Tejpals reputation is destroyed something which had great value to his business. A famous magazine that gave a vital service to the nation, defended the most vulnerable and was a means of livelihood for dozen of staff and their dependent families, is down the gutter, all for a ‘fondling’ for a few seconds of a Woman by her boss, …. this is all we know from the evidence presented on the charge sheet..
    Tejpal atoned via an e mail & offered to absent himself for six months from the magazine. He was shamed before his employees. I think this was enough blood, he has given more than his pound of flesh for the sixty seconds of inappropriate behavior. what do the feminists want, a hanging?
    Enough is Enough. It begins to disgust ! The whole sordid case.
    This is a lynching no less, Tejpal’s enemies getting the boot into a fallen man.
    The sisterhood of scorned feminist ‘she dogs’ baying for blood, to avenge all the wrongs inflicted by the Indian man, to be paid by this one TarunTejpal, who is to be torn to pieces, and buried alive, entombed in a cell. This feeding frenzy of cruelty must stop!! Public opinion must halt this crucifixion of an Innocent!!!
    There is talk of a ten year prison sentence if found guilty! Ludicrous, absurd, but there is real danger that will be his sentence, if the feminist man haters, aided and abetted by gleefully, corrupt politicians get their way.
    Come on lets keep things in proportion else it will all backfire, on the feminists.
    Tejpal incriminated himself by writing in good faith an e mail of apology and genuine remorse.
    Well, from now on no man will incriminate himself by saying sorry for any assault, as it could be used later to incriminate him. Tejpal was trapped into apologizing to this woman, a lesser man would have denied everything and sacked the woman.
    Tejpal has become a victim in the eyes of all good men.
    steven boyd
    Lucknow, India

  3. L

    If high profile personality like Tejpal can rape a woman, then what about common men in India? Is India full of rapists for that matter as women in all walks of life feel unsafe in India especially in cities and towns and in many cases even minors girls are inhumanly raped.
    In my opinion, present laws concerning rape is not enough deterrent for rapists in India. India should life imprisionment or death penalty to rapist if India wants to make it relatively free of rapists.

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