Goa to probe into sexual misconduct by Tehelka editor

PTI, PANAJI/NEW DELHI | 21 November 2013 17:55 IST

Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal's alleged sexual harrassment of a woman colleague 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.

The incident of sexual misconduct believed to have taken place in Goa, at THiNK festival organised by Tehelka this month.

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 today that she wanted time to act “correctly” on it.

Preliminary probe ordered

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 cognisance of the incident and proceed on that basis.

They are also said to be planning to take a statement from the woman journalist, the complainant, 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.


Tehelka management under attack

The Tehelka management came under attack over the way the 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 judgment in the Visakha case.

I need time: Shoma Chaudhury

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 a 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 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.

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 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.”

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