Sexual assault allegation at work against Tarun Tejpal snowballs, Tehelka ME says woman got 'what she wanted'

Written by PTI | Panaji/New Delhi | Updated: Nov 22 2013, 03:48am hrs
Tarun TejpalTarun Tejpal, after alleged sexual assault became public, said he was stepping down as editor.
Alleged sexual assault on a young woman colleague by Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal has 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.

Tehelka's Tarun Tejpal could face 10 yrs to life in prison in sexual assault case

Tarun Tejpal last night announced that he was "recusing" from his job for six months after an email by the woman journalist of his magazine alleged sexual assault.

The woman journalist, who had reportedly complained to Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury that Tarun Tejpal had pulled her into a lift on two days in a hotel in Goa about 10 days back during an event and then sexually 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 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 Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar held a meeting with top civil and police officials when a preliminary probe was ordered into the incident.

While the police have asked for CCTV footage of the five star hotel where the incident took place, they have not ruled out the possibility of taking suo motu cognizance of the incident and proceed on that basis.

They are also said to be planning to take a statement from the woman journalist, the victim, based in Delhi.

Parikkar said that an inquiry has been initiated and "if we find any substance against Tarun Tejpal, a suo motu case can be registered against him since the incident happened in Goa".

"Only after police report, I would be able to speak more on the issue," he said.

DIG O P Mishra said police have asked for the complete footage of the days during which the incident had occurred. "Only after we get the footage of the tape we will be able to comment further," he said.

The Tehelka management came under attack over the way the victim's complaint was treated and Tarun Tejpal allowed to get away with a statement of recusal from office for six months.

Critics wondered how the magazine does not have even an internal committee to go into cases of sexual assault against women employees as mandated under the Supreme Court judgement in the Visakha case.

Facing a battery of questions from the media, Chaudhury said neither she nor Tarun Tejpal or Tehelka was a fugitive and that she needed to address all issues before "acting correctly" on the incident.

"I want to address the issues that have been raised, please give me a chance to do it in a decent way. I am from the fraternity and understand the need for transparency but I do need the time to act correctly on it.

(If) I can't I'll falter, the institution will falter. If you put this amount of pressure to get an immediate reaction on this. It is difficult situation. I will address all the real questions and issues that are raised. Do need the time to prioritise it," she said.

"The way these letters are leaked, I am not being able to act in a measured way I would like to."

Asking journalists to let her act "correctly", Chaudhary said and added that she understood their questions.

"I am going to office to first speak to the office, that is my priority," She said.

When asked her response as a woman, she said that "Being a woman and a journalist are not two different things."

Again when confronted by reporters, Chaudhury said her priority was for the aggrieved journalist and "I am driven by what she wants.

"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 Tarun 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."