The charges of sexual assault against Tarun Tejpal have opened up a can of worms that now stands evidence to the real nature of gender equations even in so-called progressive work-spaces and the challenges women still face while seeking redressal in cases of sexual harassment/assault.
However, one issue that split opinions equally is the nature of action that Tejpal should face in the wake of the incident. On the News@9 debate televised on CNN IBN and moderated by Rajdeep Sardesai, panelists debated whether more emphasis should be placed on the girl's autonomous decision to pursue a certain course of action or the police should take suo motu action against the editor.
The discussion was opened by editor of The Hindu, N Ram, who didn't either mince words or tone down his disgust while lambasting Tejpal and the Tehelka administration for the handling of the incident. Commenting on Tejpal's offer to take a six-month break, Ram said, "This is outrageous that he has come up with a whitewash and offered this mockery of an apology."
Slamming Tejpal and Tehelka for construing the incident as 'drunken banter', Ram suggested that Tejpal should be tried as per the criminal justice system in the country. "These allegations are not of sexual harassment. From what I have figured from the victim's letter it is tantamount to sexual assault and rape. All the allegations should be investigated and investigated in a fast track manner," he said, emphasising the need to fast track the entire procedure.
However, lawyer and women's rights activist Vrinda Grover had a slightly different take on the path of justice that should be followed in this case. Acknowledging the fact that the nature of allegations were grievous she urged people to not forget in the din that utmost priority and respect should be given to the voice and autonomy of the victim in the middle of the all this. "The reason why the apology doesn't wash with anyone is the fact that he cannot possibly choose his own penalty. But we should also respect the victim's autonomy in how she chooses to address the case. If she wants to take the route of an internal probe, she has every right to do it. If she doesn't want to walk down the path of the criminal justice system, that too should be respected," said Grover. She added that with third parties demanding Tejpal be taken to the police and tried by the courts, they are taking away both agency and autonomy from the aggrieved party in this case.
Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, however, chose to differ with Grover. She said that in several occasions people don't complain in the fear of repercussions and that is why law should take its own course and the police should take suo motu cognisance of the crime. "In my tenure as a police officer I have seen people, especially in the north east, refuse to file complaints against extortion," she recounted. That led extortion to become a thriving unchecked industry, she said, citing it as an example. "They have anyway made a legal violation. The internal committee was not formed and was illegal. And the only way to address this is therefore through the police who should collect evidence and present them before the court," said Bedi.
She argued Grover's point by saying that 90 percent of these 'internal probes' don't lead to anything consequential and the one outsider party is bulldozed by the opinions of the three insiders. Given that in this case, the accused is also the owner, there's little chance that the victim will be meted out justice that way.
Journalists Anna M Vetticad and Namita Bhandare agreed that Tehelka, under Tejpal, had set high standards of moral justice and they have no right to flout those very principles. "When CBI director Ranjit Sinha made that misguided rape-betting comparison, Shoma had demanded he resign. Her response to this incident has been very soft in comparison," pointed out Vetticad. Backing the idea that there can't be double standards within the organisation, Bhandare suggested that a probe like that shouldn't remain confined to the newsroom and should be tried in the court of law.
Updated Date: Nov 22, 2013 11:42 AM