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Sting crusader Tarun Tejpal stung by sexual assault charge

In an email to Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor at Tehelka, Tejpal admitted to ‘an unfortunate incident’ and blamed ‘a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation’ on his part for the unpleasant occurrence. In Tejpal’s absence, Chaudhury will be in charge of the organisation.

In an email to the Tehelka staff and bureau, Chaudhury wrote, ‘There has been an untoward incident and though he has extended an unconditional apology to the colleague involved, Tarun will be recusing himself as the editor of Tehelka for the next six months.’ However, Tehelka has reportedly clarified that there would not be an official enquiry into the matter. ‘It is an internal problem and we are not setting up any enquiry into the matter,’ Chaudhury said, according to agencies.

During Tehelka’s idea festival Think 2013, held on 8-10 November in Goa’s Grand Hyatt hotel, Tejpal allegedly sexually harassed a younger female colleague, who’s the daughter of a senior journalist based in Delhi. Incidentally, Think 2013, which Tehelka claims to be ‘India’s most eclectic, thought-provoking and egalitarian platform for ideas from across the globe,’ had several corporate sponsors who were involved in controversies, including the Adani Group accused in Coalgate, Essar, Unitech accused in 2G scam, Wave group of the murdered liquor baron Ponty Chadha, JSW Group, as well as DB Realty, which owns Grand Hyatt, the main venue of
Tehelka
’s Think festival.

Although Shoma Chaudhury had communicated to a major English language news channel that the concerned journalist was ‘satisfied’ with Tejpal’s ‘recusal for six months,’ she has now retracted that statement. Source close to the younger journalist’s family has countered that claim, saying the incident has left her ‘emotionally scarred,’ since it happened not once but twice in the elevator, as evident in the CCTV footage available at the hotel. The source also claimed that the family is in favour of setting up an external enquiry committee to establish the veracity of the allegations and have a judicial case according to the Vishakha judgment, which lays out the legal recourse to deal with sexual harassment at work place.

Meanwhile, social media websites such as Twitter have been abuzz with reactions to this high-profile resignation of the senior editor over sexual misconduct, with nods from even the US ambassador.

‘Shoma Chaudhury’s letter is more pathetic than Tarun Tejpal’s’, read a tweet by a prominent journalist and author Rahul Pandita. Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nandy said on Twitter, ‘This crisis is the time for all media houses to set up SH Cmtees. Mr. Tejpal can show good faith, repentance by submitting to such Comttee.’ Actor and filmmaker Pooja Bhatt said, ‘Is an ‘unconditional apology to the colleague involved’ enough? Why is there such a deafening silence in most sections of the media?’

According to a senior SC lawyer, ‘When the accused himself has admitted to the crime describing the incident as a ‘misreading of the situation’, and as established by the CCTV footage, it clearly indicates his complicity in the crime. Hence, a mere apology and a six-month recusal from editorship will amount to condoning the crime. Therefore, a proper criminal case (of sexual assault, harassment) should be registered and law should take its own course as it happens with any ordinary citizen of the country.’
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