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What non-consent means

Tarun Tejpal’s counsel told Delhi High Court on Wednesday that the version of the journalist who accused the Tehelka editor of sexual misconduct should be taken “with a pinch of salt”.

But the court denied Tejpal immediate relief and will decide on his request for bail on Friday. Goa police have asked Tejpal to present himself before the investigating officer by 3pm on Thursday.

By the evening, an “informal” email Tejpal purportedly sent the girl on November 19, a day after she formally complained to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury of the sexual assault, did the rounds. The email seeks to portray a “flirtatious” and “playful” environment.

Soon after, a rebuttal attributed to the young journalist and sent to Tejpal and Chaudhury on November 20 emerged. The following are excerpts from Tejpal’s email and the response. Some words have been redacted to protect identities.



Tejpal: The context that ill-fated evening, of our conversation, as you will recall, was heavily loaded. We were playfully and flirtatiously talking about desire, sex; you were telling me the Bob Geldof story in graphic detail, and about (her male friend), and the near-impossibility of fidelity….

Girl: The conversation from that night was not “heavily loaded” or “flirtatious” — you were talking about “sex” or “desire” because that is what you usually choose to speak to me about, unfortunately, never my work, which if you had had occasion to read, you might not have attempted to sexually molest me, and certainly would have known that there was no way that I would stay silent about it and just vanish.


Tejpal: (You were telling me) of the aftermath of meeting me one stormy evening in my office when I was sitting watching the thunderclouds.

Girl: There was no “aftermath” of that evening with the “thunderclouds” — this is exactly what happened: I wanted to discuss the first story I had written about a rape survivor with you. xxxx called me to your office, I walked in and you were lying on the couch with the lights off. I asked you if you wanted me to turn the lights on, and you refused. You continued to lie on the couch. I sat on a chair across from you in the same room and told you the survivor’s story. I wish again, that you remembered the professional reason I had met you that evening, instead of the storm and the thunderclouds.

The boss

Tejpal: I also want to clarify that yes, you did say at one point that I was your boss, and I did reply “that makes it simpler” but in the very same breath and sentence I said to you “I withdraw that straight away — no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”. It was in this frivolous, laughing mood that the encounter took place.

Girl: You never, even once uttered the following words: “I withdraw that straight away — no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that’. If your attempt at sexual molestation were really as consensual as you seem to imply that it was Tarun, why would you have suddenly switched to speaking in legal terms in a “frivolous, laughing” moment?


Tejpal: I had no idea that you were upset, or felt I had been even remotely non-consensual, until (his daughter) came and spoke to me the next night.

Girl: This is what non-consent constitutes: the moment you laid a hand on me, I started begging you to stop. I invoked every single person and principle that was important to us — (Tejpal’s daughter, wife, Chaudhury) — the fact that you were my employer, to make you stop. You refused to listen. In fact, you went ahead and decided to molest me again on the following night. We have often spoken of “what turns men into beasts” at Tehelka edit meetings, you yourself have commissioned several stories on this. It is this — not being able to take no for an answer.

Daughter’s friend

Tejpal: I was shocked and devastated at the time. Both because you felt I had imposed on you (which had neither been my reading or intention), and because I felt I had been totally irresponsible and foolish to have anything furtive to do with my daughter’s intimate friend. At that very moment I was filled with shame, and still am.

Girl: Not only did you lash out at me verbally for telling (Tejpal’s daughter), you also sent me a text message the next morning saying “I can’t believe you went and told her even the smallest thing. What a complete absence of understanding of a parent-child relationship”.

Tarun, I can’t believe you think molesting an employee your daughter’s age, who is also your daughter’s friend, is something you’d describe as “the smallest thing”. What an absence of understanding of what Tehelka stands for.

Wrong apology

Tejpal: You have made it clear that I read it all wrong, and I will not dispute it, nor underplay your anger and hurt. This is easily the worst moment of my life — something ostensibly playful gone so horribly wrong, damaging of all that I hold dear in life, from people to principles. I ask you to forgive and forget it. I will meet your mom and apologise to her too — and (the male friend) if you so wish.

Girl: Unfortunately, your desire to apologise to (the male friend) only reeks of your own patriarchal notion that men own and possess female bodies.... The only people you owe an apology to are your employees at Tehelka, for desecrating their and my faith in you. Please do not attempt any further personal correspondence with me — you lost that privilege when you violated my trust and body.

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