MM Anna Vetticad sets out the NWMI critique of the recent judgement on the Tarun Tejpal verdict. Jayna Kothari, Vakasha Sachdev and Jhuma Sen discuss the implications in a session moderated by Laxmi Murthy.
The judgement acquitting journalist Tarun Tejpal, handed down by a trial court in on 21 May 2021, has far reaching implications for justice in cases of sexual assault in India. State vs Tarunjit Tejpal is one of the first prominent cases to be tried and prosecuted under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, an outcome of decades of struggle by the country’s women’s rights movement for an expansion of the legal definitions of the acts that constitute rape and the contexts in which consent is given. In 2013, Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka magazine, was charged with rape, unlawful confinement and sexual harassment of a young woman journalist, who was his junior colleague.
Unfortunately, in the course of the trial and in the judgement, the provision that persons “in a position of trust or authority” must be held to stricter standards while determining consent was turned on its head, with constant attempts to discredit the survivor as if she were the one on trial. Furthermore, her right to privacy was violated by what amounts to a “digital strip search” even as the harrowing trial prolonged the trauma for more than seven years.
The session will include highlights of a detailed critique of the judgement by the Network of Women in Media, India. The discussion will examine issues of consent, trial processes, data privacy, and also the enduring, ubiquitous gender-based rights violations in Indian newsrooms which have not yet evolved adequate institutional redress.