Former journalist Tarun Tejpal (right) leaves after being acquitted in the sexual assault case, at the district court of Mapusa in Goa. – AFP

PANAJI: An Indian court Friday acquitted the former editor of a leading news magazine accused of raping a female colleague seven years ago in a high-profile case that made headlines across the country. Tarun Tejpal was acquitted of charges of rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint, public prosecutor Francisco Tavora said in the coastal state of Goa.

“Seriously aggrieved. The State will be assailing the judgment,” Tavora told AFP in a text message. Tejpal, the 58-year-old founder and former editor of Tehelka magazine, was accused of raping a female journalist in the lift of a five-star hotel in Goa in November 2013.

He was granted bail in 2014. The case came at a time when India’s record on sexual assault was under the scanner following the fatal gang-rape of a New Delhi student in December 2012 that sparked widespread protests and resulted in the strengthening of anti-rape laws. Tehelka magazine had reported forcefully on gender inequality in the country, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitudes of many Indian men.

Women’s rights campaigners attacked the court’s decision, with activist Kavita Krishnan calling it “very unfortunate”. “This is a case where there was an enormous amount of evidence and courageous action on the part of the complainant who lost no time in telling people what happened,” Krishnan said.

“I am aware of how torturous the trial has been for the complainant. The entire process of the trial has put her in the pillory and subjected her to all kinds of cruelties,” she added. Tejpal, who has consistently denied the allegations, welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a long-fought for vindication” in a statement read out by his daughter Cara outside the court in Goa. The victim, who has since quit the magazine, cannot be named for legal reasons. – AFP