Tehelka scandal: Probe ordered

Scandal costs Tejpal Prasar Bharti membership; NCW, journos, parties press for action.

Panaji/New Delhi: The Tehelka management today announced that an internal panel will be set up by evening to look into the sexual assault case against it's Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal.

The accused's alleged sexual harrassment of a woman colleague snowballed into a major controversy on Thursday with the Goa police issuing summons to the accused Tejpal even as questions were raised over the way the weekly magazine has handled the issue.

Also read - Scandal costs Tejpal Prasar Bharti membership

Tejpal last night announced that he was "recusing" from his job for six months after an email by the woman journalist of his magazine alleging sexual assault on her by him was made public.

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.

Chaudhury, 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 that she wanted time to act "correctly" on it.

The National Commission for Women today said that it would want the victim of the alleged sexual assault in the Tehelka case to register a formal complaint with the police.

"From her emails that we have read, subject to its authentification, it seems to be more than depriving her of her modesty. It is a serious issue and there seems to be clear violation of Visakha guidelines. "Though the girl has not approached us personally, she seems to be interested in getting justice. She should go ahead and file an FIR," member of the Commission, Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar said on Thursday.

She said that NCW member in-charge of Goa, Shamina Shafiq has also written to the Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India requesting him to intervene and examine the matter that whether Visakha guidelines were followed in this matter or not.

Meanwhile, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (BSKS), Delhi-based outfit, has written to NCW demanding legal action against Tarun Tejpal for dishonouring and violating the dignity of a woman.

Journalists bodies also condemned the incident. In a statement, Editors' Guild of India President N Ravi said allegations of sexual assault made by a journalist of Tehelka against the magazine's editor Tarun Tejpal are "on the face of it shocking and shameful."

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and its Gender and Ethics Councils also strongly condemned the alleged incident. "Tarun Tejpal’s statement admitting a 'lapse of judgement' and his self-declared sabbatical from editorship both confirm the allegation. It is clear that he stands in breach of the law," DUJ said in a statement.

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 told PTI that an inquiry has been initiated and "if we find any substance against 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 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.

Chaudhury's comments that the girl was "satisfied" with the "action" in the issue also drew flak from activists.

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.

Facing a battery of questions from the media, Chaudhury said neither she nor 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."

Next: Political parties react to Tejpal case

Political parties react to Tejpal case

New Delhi: BJP on Thursdasy demanded that Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal be arrested after lodging of FIR against him for allegedly sexually assaulting his colleague.

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

"Tehelka, of which Tejpal is the founder editor, had done the 2001 sting operation in which the then BJP President Bangaru Laxman was caught accepting bribe. The party today accused the media of adopting double standards in its coverage of the case of alleged snooping on a woman by Narendra Modi government in 2009 and Tejpal's case. Lekhi alleged that the incident of "virtual rape" of a journalist by Tejpal was being "blacked out" by media and also wondered why the National Commission for Women, Press Council of India and certain other agencies were silent.

"Tejpal has been found involved in criminal activity but it was ignored by the media. The victim and her father as well as the criminal are from the same fraternity (media). A blanket is sought to be put on the case," she said She said, in the Gujarat case, the woman sought anonymity but some papers have even published her name and photograph.

BJP alleged that this is a wake up call for all. "A political vendetta is taking place. The involvement of Congress and its surrogates in the matter needs to be looked into...," Lekhi said. Hitting out at Tejpal, BJP alleged that through his "atonement" letter, he has sought a "paid holiday" of six months.

"Can atonement for a criminal act like this be granted? If it is granted, it should take place within the jail premises. Even though Tejpal has admitted to having committed the crime, sending him away from Tehelka is not a befitting punishment at all considering the serious nature and assault on his own woman staffer," Lekhi said Tejpal had yesterday accepted "misconduct" against a woman journalist and offered to recuse himself from the post and the office for six months.

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

Meanwhile, Congress also condemned the alleged sexual assault of the young woman colleague by Tejpal and said action should be initiated against anyone found guilty of such an offence, irrespective of one's position.

Congress also raised concerns over such "black-sheep" existing in all four pillars of democracy and called for corrective measures.

"On the issue of sexual assault, the Congress party's stand is clear that anyone found guilty of such an offence, action should be initiated against him...This is condemnable. It should be condemned," party spokesperson Meem Afzal said.

"Be it a anyone big or small, the demand for action remains the same...If black sheep are there in the four pillars of democracy, who are not common people but guide them, then it is a very serious issue. Corrective measures will have to be taken. All will have to come forward in this fight," Afzal said.

He lamented that in the recent past, such incidents of sexual assault against women have been reported against people in high positions in the legislature, executive and judiciary and now against someone in the media, saying this is a "serious issue"

The Congress leader also lamented that when there is such a complaint against a politician, the issue of blown out of proportion and more publicity is given to them. Afzal said even journalists were shocked at the incident and called for action into the incident.

( Source : PTI )
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