Additional sessions judge Kshama Joshi pronounced the verdict on Friday after thrice deferring the judgment date in a case in which the Goa police had filed an FIR suo motu. Tejpal’s lawyer, Rajiv Gomes, died of Covid last week.
Minutes after the judgment, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said the government would appeal in the high court. “The verdict is an injustice towards the victim, and this injustice will not be tolerated. We will challenge the verdict in the high court as soon as possible,” he said.
“We will not let somebody go scot-free like this. I have personally gone through the evidence collected in the case and, looking at it, he cannot be acquitted. It is very sad and we will not tolerate such injustice against women,” Sawant said.
Tejpal said the past few years had been a long nightmare for his family and that he was relieved that it was over. “It is with profound respect that I thank this court for its rigorous, impartial and fair trial, and for its thorough examination of the CCTV footage and other empirical material on record,” he said.
“In November 2013, I was falsely accused of sexual assault, and today the trial court of the additional sessions judge, Goa, has acquitted me. In an awfully vitiated age where ordinary courage has become rare, I thank her for standing by the truth. I am grateful to have received justice, because justice is not always a given thing in this country,” he said.
When asked if the state government had “fixed him” in the case, Tejpal said, “We will speak to the press, but give us some time. It was very tough for all of us.”
Tejpal had been charged under IPC Sections 354 (assaulting or using criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354-A (outraging modesty), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrong confinement), 376 (rape), 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust or authority over woman committing rape of such woman) and 376(2)(k) (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman).
Special public prosecutor Francisco Tavora said the verdict was a setback to the state.
The case pertains to 2013, when on November 7 and 8 Tejpal allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at an event in Goa. On November 22, Goa police lodged a suo motu FIR against him.
He turned up in Goa on November 28, 2013 and was arrested on November 30 after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected. He was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court on May 19, 2014 to attend the cremation of his mother and he has been out of prison since then.