Evidence sought from Tehelka; editor protests his innocence

A special investigation team of Goa Police reached Delhi on Saturday to quiz Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, who has been charged with sexually assualting a woman colleague, and its managing editor Shoma Chaudhury and will try to meet the victim.

The four-member Crime Branch team which arrived at around noon in the national capital is likely to record the statement of Ms Chaudhury before further action, senior Goa police official said.

The team is led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Sammy Tavares and includes a woman. Police are trying to collect e—mails of Mr Tejpal in connection with the incident and the complaint of the girl to the management following which he (Tejpal) will be questioned, the official said and did not rule out his arrest.

Police will also be trying to meet the victim and get an independent statement from her, the official said.

Goa Police had on Friday filed an FIR against Mr Tejpal under Sections 376 (rape), 376 (2) (rape by a person of a woman in his custody taking advantage of his official position) and 354 (outraging modesty) of IPC in connection with the incident that took place during an event in Goa a fortnight ago.

Ms Chaudhury, who had on Friday asserted that they (Tehelka management) would not go to police on the issue as it was for the victim to decide on it and was accused of not cooperating with police, on Saturday today said she was in touch with the police and was ready to provide all necessary information to them.

The Hindu bureau adds:

Meanwhile, Delhi Police said it would extend full support to the special investigation team of Goa Police. Delhi Police officials visited Mr. Tejpal’s home in South Delhi’s Jangpura area on Friday, but sources told The Hindu they were there only to prevent any attack by protestors, who burned copies of the magazine there. “The investigation is being conducted by the Goa Police, but we will provide all assistance they request,” a Delhi Police officer said.

FIR filed for rape

The Crime Branch of the Goa Police on Friday filed a First Information Report against Mr. Tejpal, based on publicly available information on the attack. Filed by Goa Police Inspector Sunita Sawant on behalf the State, it says Mr. Tejpal is being investigated for crimes under Sections 354A, 376 and 376(2)(k) of the Indian Penal Code — provisions dealing, respectively, with outraging the modesty of a woman, rape, and rape of a woman in the custody of a perpetrator.

In an e-mail sent to Tehelka’s executive editor Shoma Chaudhury, the victim had said Mr. Tejpal sexually assaulted her twice when they were in Goa for Thinkfest, an event organised by the magazine from November 8 to 10.

The FIR states that Inspector Sawant had contacted Ms. Chaudhury seeking a copy of the victim’s complaint and other relevant evidence. Police sources said these had not been received till late Friday night.

In an e-mail, Mr. Tejpal asserted he was innocent of the charges. “The truth is it was an incredibly fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute,” he claimed in the mail, provided on his behalf by his wife Geetan Batra. “Out of an attempt to preserve the girl’s dignity and on Shoma [Chaudhury]’s adamantine feminist-principle insistence that I keep correct form by apologising, I did so.”

“The cctv [closed-circuit television camera] footage [at the hotel] will clear everything,” the mail added.

In an earlier mail to Ms. Chaudhary, Mr. Tejpal had said he had personally apologised to the victim for “misjudgement.” He had “recused” himself from editorship for six months, saying he “must do the penance that lacerates me.” In an separate official statement, Mr. Tejpal urged the internal investigation committee set up by Tehelka, and the police, “to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed”.

(With inputs from Devesh Pandey and Anita Joshua in New Delhi, and Prakash Kamat in Goa)

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