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Tejpal charged with rape, says he will aid probe

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Tehelka founder editor Tarun Tejpa breaks down, in custody for 6 days
Tehelka founder editor Tarun Tejpa breaks down, in custody for 6 days

Panaji/New Delhi – Tehelka founder and editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal, accused of sexually assaulting a junior woman colleague in a five-star hotel earlier this month, was booked for rape by Goa Police. Tejpal promised “full cooperation” in the probe.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley demanded that Tejpal face a criminal trial.

The First Information Report was filed suo motu by the Goa Pol! ice Crime Branch officials under Sections 354 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deal, respectively, with criminal use of force on a woman and rape, a police official said in Panaji.

Tejpal, 50, was accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague twice in a hotel elevator during a high profile conference organised by the weekly magazine in Goa earlier this month.

“The Crime Branch is investigating the case. We are also in the process of sending a team to Delhi,” Goa Director General of Police (DGP) Kishen Kumar said.

In a statement issued Friday in Delhi, Tejpal said “serious allegations” have been levelled against him “and unfortunately, as sometimes happens in life, the complete truth and the need to do the honourable thing can come into conflict”.

“I offer my fullest cooperation to the police and all other authorities, and look to presenting all the facts of this incident to it,” Tejpal said, speaking of the matter for the first t! ime since the allegations of sexual harassment were made public.
“I also urge the committee and the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stand clearly revealed,” he said.

As pressure mounted on the magazine, known for its investigative brand of journalism, managing editor Shoma Chaudhary denied any cover-up of allegations or delay in taking action.

Speaking to journalists, she said: “I am in no way in opposition to the journalist and I acted according to what she asked of me within three days. This is hardly any cover.”

“It’s a misconception that there was a delay. I received a formal complaint only Nov 18, and took action as requested within three days. My response within those three days was to make sure all that she asked from me, and the institution, was addressed immediately,” she said.

Chaudhary said it was the victim’s prerogative to go to the police, and she could not do that unilaterally.

“Whether consensual or not, it was a grave transg! ression. So institutionally, one is not disputing her version,” the managing editor told reporters outside the Tehelka office in south Delhi.

The organisation has formed a committee presided over by Urvashi Butalia, eminent feminist and publisher, to look into the matter.

“There is no question of putting any pressure or defending anyone, there will be an investigation by the committee. My intent has always been to act correctly. It is indeed a difficult time for everyone of us,” Choudhury said.

Jaitley, Bharatiya Janata Party leader, who has also been a lawyer in the Supreme Court, asserted that both a departmental inquiry and the trial must go together.

In a post on Facebook, Jaitley said he had glanced at television debates on the serious charges against Tejpal.

“Regretfully, some participants provided an escape route for the accused. They argued that the victim has a freedom of choice whether to pursue her complaint before the in-house ! inquiry or pursue a criminal investigation,” he said.

The Nation! al Commission for Women (NCW) also swung into action and directed the news magazine to provide, within 24 hours, all details regarding the alleged sexual assault case.

“We have already asked Tehelka to give us all the details within 24 hours,” NCW member Shamina Shafiq said. She said the way Tehelka dealt with the allegations was “very, very shocking”.

“A case of sexual harassment is not an internal matter. They should have acted immediately. The sexual harassment committee was not in place. They have to give an answer,” the NCW member said.

Shafiq said she has also spoken to the victim.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), raised slogans outside the Tehelka office, demanding that Tejpal be arrested.

The police complaint in Goa comes after pressure mounted Thursday for action against Tejpal.

In an apology mail to Shoma Chaudhary Wednesday night, Tejpal announced that he was stepp! ing down from his post for six months.

Chaudhary then wrote to her colleagues, with the appended “atonement” note of Tejpal, saying that “there was an incident which has been dealt with internally”.

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