Tehelka sexual assault case: Huge controversy erupts, trouble brews for Tarun Tejpal

Last Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 23:54

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: A huge controversy has erupted after Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal accepted "misconduct" against a woman journalist, with National Commission for Women (NCW) on Thursday saying that it may take suo motu cognizance of the case.

NCW member Nirmala Samant today said that the commission wants the victim to reveal everything and file a complaint. She also said that the identity of the girl would not be revealed.

Sharma said: "Once the matter is brought to the National Commission for Women, we will investigate and ensure that the accused gets punishment, if found guilty. He will have to face a trial in the court."

"Tarun Tejpal is no god to decide his own course of punishment," Sharma said about Tejpal`s announcement that he was recusing himself from the editorship of Tehelka for six months.

The woman journalist, who had reportedly complained to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury that Tejpal had pulled her into a lift in a hotel in Goa about 10 days back during an event organised by it on two days to assault her, is now said to be seeking constitution of a committee by the magazine to go into the issue and take action.

Chadhury, whose statements on the issue has attracted criticism from women activists and senior journalists who have demanded that law take its course in the incident, merely said today that she wanted time to act "correctly" on it.

Goa orders probe into Tehelka incident

Goa government today 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.

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 O P 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.

Does Tehelka has mandatory committee, asks Kiran Bedi

Reacting to the incident former top cop Kiran Bedi tweeted: “Does Tehelka have th mandatory committee to look into the allegations of sexual harassment against their editor to propose on how far to go?”

“Women ar coming half way by `Socially`Punishing persons in influential positions:They need sensitive Police+Judiciary to criminally punish!”

“What kind of fathers of the kind of #Tejpal Singh of #Tehelka must be?Can they be trusted,even with their own daughters,? Bedi’s another tweet said.

Also Read: Tehelka incident tantamount to rape: BJP

BJP reacts strongly to Tejpal’s misconduct

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that the molestation act that Tejpal is accused of is tantamount to rape according to law and its criminality can`t be shielded.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, addressing a press conference a day after Tejpal stepped down for six months over the incident, said: "In today`s amended definition, the doing of Tarun Tejpal is called rape."

Another BJP leader Smriti Irani also reacted strongly to Tejpal’s misconduct and tweeted:

Centre treads cautiously

The Centre today refused to be drawn into the issue of a woman journalist levelling allegations of "misconduct" against Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal.

"It`s a very sensitive issue. After scrutinising every details regarding the Tarun Tejpal issue and if there is any reaction to be given in that issue then we will definitely give our reaction," Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters at IFFI venue in Goa.

Meanwhile, terming it as an unfortunate incident Congress leader Shobha Oza said that no one is bigger than the law and zero tolerance should be adopted.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi said that it’s good that Tejpal has stepped down and now it depends on girl if she wants to take it forward.

Tejpal steps aside as Tehelka editor for 6 months

Tejpal has offered to recuse himself from the editor’s post and the office for six months.

In a letter to managing editor of Tehelka Shoma Chaudhary, Tejpal said, "The last few days have been most testing, and I squarely take the blame for this.... A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for."

"I have already unconditionally apologised for my misconduct to the concerned journalist, but I feel impelled to atone further," he added.

Tejpal is a founder member of the Tehelka magazine.

"Because it involves Tehelka, and a sterling shared legacy, I feel atonement cannot be just words. I must do the penance that lacerates me. I am therefore offering to recuse myself from the editorship of Tehelka, and from the Tehelka office, for the next six months," he said in his letter.

Managing editor, Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury`s statement

"In furtherance to Tehelka`s acceptance of Tarun Tejpal`s recusal from editorship of tehelka on November 20th, which followed the official unconditional apology he had mailed to the journalist concerned on November 19th, Tehelka has now constituted a formal complaints committee, in accordance to Vishaka guidelines, to be presided over by Urvashi Butalia, eminent feminist and publisher, to investigate the matter. The other members of the committee will be announced shortly."

"In addition to this, Tehelka will ensure setting up a formal complaints committee, according to section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013), an institutional mechanism that was sorely missing in Tehelka."

With PTI inputs

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First Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 12:23

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