Goa Police to probe alleged sexual assault by Tehelka's Tejpal

Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal's alleged sexual harassment of a woman colleague snowballed into a major controversy today with the Goa police considering summoning him while questions have been raised over the way the weekly magazine has handled the issue.

hidden November 22, 2013 04:00:10 IST
Goa Police to probe alleged sexual assault by Tehelka's Tejpal

Panaji/New Delhi: Goa government on Thursday ordered a probe into the alleged sexual assault by Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal on a woman journalist colleague as a major controversy erupted over the magazine's attempts to treat it as an internal matter.

Goa Police to probe alleged sexual assault by Tehelkas Tejpal

Tarun Tejpal. AFP

Demands for a quick probe into the incident that happened in a lift in a five star hotel in Goa about 10 days ago mounted with journalist bodies asking for prosecution into the allegations of "grave sexual assault".

"There ought not to be any attempt to cover up or play down this extremely serious incident," the Editors Guild said in a statement.

Tehelka's Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury, to whom Tejpal last night wrote saying he was "recusing" from work for 6 months admitting to "bad lapse of judgement", and the magazine came under attack for maintaining that it was an internal issue.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who conferred with top police officials, ordered a preliminary probe after prima facie opinion that there seems to be substance in the letter written by the victim to her office.

The case was handed over to the Crime Branch of police which has got the footage of the Close Circuit Television in the hotel, DIG OP Mishra said. They have also sought the copy of the complaint filed by the girl from Tehelka.

Probably the incident took place in the lift, the Chief Minister said, adding the victim's letter indicates that there was an attempt to rape.

Women activists and journalist attacked Chaudhury's claim that it was an internal matter and demanded that law take its course as it was a matter of crime.

Chaudhury said it was kept as an internal matter as it was the desire of the victim, who was satisfied with Tejpal's apology.

"My understanding is she wanted an apology and it was given to her. He (Tejpal) stepped down. It was something she had not asked for. It was much more than what she wanted," she said.

Chaudhury said that they were in the process of setting up a three-member committee to go into the incident.

Asked by a reporter whether Tejpal will face law as it was a criminal case, she said "it is not a case, sir, unless you know more about it than I do."

At one point, she asked reporters "are you the aggrieved party". Through the day she maintained that she needed time to "act correctly", she claimed the victim was satisfied with Tehelka's action.

Television channels quoted the victim as saying she was not at all satisfied by the action of her office. She complained that her letter was not circulated to the staff.

Kavita Krishnan, a woman activist, said she was in touch with the victim who was not at all satisfied with the apology and Tehelka's action.

BJP, one of whose presidents Bangaru Laxman had to quit following a sting operation by Tehelka, demanded that Tejpal should be arrested after lodging of FIR against him.

"I would want the Home Minister to ensure lodging of an FIR and immediate arrest of Tejpal," BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi.

Women activists and senior journalists expressed dissatisfaction over the way Tehelka management handled the issue.

They were critical of the statements made by Chaudhury who said it was not a police case which the organisation will deal with to the satisfaction of the victim.

A former top Delhi police official Kiran Bedi and noted lawyer Pinky Anand felt that it was clear case of crime and police can suo motu take cognisance of it.

Anand said Tejpal should be arrested and an FIR lodged against him. She said the victim cannot be forced to give a complaint and the police can suo motu take action.

Bedi said an act of crime has been committed and police should take suo motu action.

A woman activist Kavita Krishnan said Tehelka's response to the complaint by their woman employee "is inadequate and in fact shocking".

She said it was shocking because the complaint was specifically one of sexual harassment and that she has asked Tejpal's acknowledgement that he committed sexual harassment be publicly circulated to all the Tehelka employees and that has not happened.

"We need to tell Mr Tejpal that penance is no substitute for due process and penalty," she said.

Noted journalist N Ram said that the issue one of crime under the law of the land and law should take its course.

He said women's movement should take up the case of the victim and make a noise so that the issue is properly dealt with.

Another senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan also said that the alleged incident was a violation of law and police should act accordingly.

The Editors Guild of India said the allegations of sexual assault made against Tehelka Editor "are on the face of it shocking and shameful" and demanded a complete probe and prosecution.

"Such incidents anywhere are condemnable in the strongest terms but the Guild is particularly saddened that they should engulf a media organisation. It is emphatically the philosophy of the Guild that the media that is in the business of holding public persons accountable should itself be held to the highest standards of conduct and decency," Guild President Ravi said in a statement.

The conduct that has been alleged would constitute grave sexual assault at the very least, also brings out vulnerability of young women journalists who need to be protected and free to pursue their careers without the fear of being subject to such assaults, he said.

"There ought not to be any attempt to cover up or play down this extremely serious incident. Self-proclaimed atonement and recusal for a period are hardly the remedies for what the allegations show to be outright criminality.

"The full force of the law must be brought into its investigation and prosecution. Due regard must be paid to the sensitivity and privacy of the victim who has already been put to grievous suffering," he said.

PTI

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