Sun, Dec 01, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Top Indian editor in court over sexual assault allegations

AFP, PANAJI, India

Indian news magazine editor Tarun Tejpal appeared in court yesterday in the state of Goa for a pretrial hearing on allegations of sexual assault leveled by a woman employee.

Tejpal is the founder of Tehelka, an investigative magazine responsible for some of India’s hardest-hitting journalism about abuses of power, corruption and violence against women.

The 50-year-old media honcho was accompanied by his wife and daughter as he arrived at a trial court in the city of Panaji, a day after flying in from his home in New Delhi.

Tejpal was seeking so-called “pre-bail” at the hearing.

Under Indian law, an individual can seek pre-trial bail if he fears a possible arrest.

Ahead of his court appearance, Tejpal was questioned by the police over the alleged assault in a hotel elevator in Goa during a magazine-sponsored event earlier this month.

“We have joined the investigation started by the [police] crime branch. We will continue to do so,” the ponytailed Tejpal, flanked by a team of lawyers, told reporters.

The case has grabbed headlines in recent days mainly because of the prominence of Tejpal and his liberal-oriented magazine, which set a new trend in Indian journalism with its graft exposes and sting operations.

The magazine has reported forcefully on gender inequality in India recently, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitudes of many Indian men.

It has been accused of hypocrisy and trying to cover up a serious crime after staff were sent an e-mail last week saying Tejpal was stepping down for six months for “misconduct.”

Tejpal, also a famed novelist, has denied rape and said their encounter was consensual.

The woman, who quit her job at the magazine after the scandal broke, said in a statement on Friday she was fighting to preserve her “integrity.”

“By filing my complaint, I have lost not just a job that I loved, but much-needed financial security ... I have also opened myself to personal and slanderous attack,” she said.

“This will not be an easy battle,” she added.

In an e-mail sent to staff, Tejpal earlier said that “a bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for.”

Later though, he told the Economic Times newspaper that the encounter was “consensual” and “fleeting.”

Under a new, tougher rape laws passed by Parliament recently, Tejpal could be jailed for 10 years, lawyers say.

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