Tehelka founder editor Tarun Tejpal was charged on Monday, February 17, 2014 by Goa police with rape, sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of a junior colleague, 80 days after his arrest, and could face imprisonment of more than seven years if convicted.
Police filed a 2,684-page charge sheet against Tejpal, in jail since December 1, under section
354 [molestation], 354-A [sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of a woman], 341 [wrongful restraint], 342 [wrongful confinement], 376 [rape] and 376(2)(f) [rape by a person in a position of control or dominance over a woman] of the IPC; and 376(2)(k) [rape by a relative or guardian or a person in a position of trust or authority, and rape by a person in a fiduciary position] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.
The charge sheet, filed in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Anuja Prabhudesai, has relied on emails and text messages between the victim and Tejpal, the statements of witnesses, besides CCTV footages of the 5 star hotel lobby outside the lift where the alleged incident happened.
Police examined 152 witnesses during the probe, at least 50 of whom are former and current employees of Tehelka and ThinkWorks, and their testimonies are included in the chargesheet
The charge sheet has placed great reliance on the "incriminating" emails exchanged between Tejpal, once celebrated for his sting operations, and the victim, including the one tendering apology for his actions, to nail him:
“…I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me”.
While the incriminating e-mails are already in public domain, we reproduce those excerpts which contradict the claims on behalf of the accused:
125. Shri [Name Redacted] a Creative Director, [Name of company redacted] and a survivor of child sexual abuse and panelist on the issue of ‘Rape’ for THiNK Fest-2013 held at Hotel Grand Hayatt, Bambolim Goa, apart from other facts, stated in his statement recorded u/sec 161 Cr.P.C. that on 8/11/2013 at around 10 am in the green room, victim seemed to be lost in her own world and appeared very distant.
126. Shri [Name Redacted] further stated that on 10th November 2013, [Name Redacted] and he wanted to get a picture with the famous personality Mr. Robert De Niro. They requested one of the Tehelka staffers to help them get a snap with Mr. Robert De Niro. Both of them were taken to the backyard; where Mr. Robert De Niro was seen standing with victim. On seeing victim his first reaction was to hug her; that victim usually is uninhibited in her affection and has a complete embrace, but at that time she victim kept her hand in between her chest refraining him; that he could instantly sense that something was wrong with her ( victim female); that Suzette and he attributed it to many things but they both could not pinpoint on the problem with victim.
127. Shri [Name Redacted] further stated that when he read about the Rape case involving a Tehelka employee on the National print and electronic media during the THiNK Fest 2013 held in Goa, he knew immediately that it was about victim. When he read in the media that Mr Tarun Tejpal (accused mentioned in col. No. 11 at Sl. No. A1) has commented about victim behaviour with the phrase “The lady continued to participate in the conference with elan”, he thought it was important that he put his observations on record as well which was completely different. Durirng course of his statement he reaffirmed that he found victim to be extremely distant and disturbed. He could sense her ( victim female) discomfort as he has been involved in interacting and counseling several rape and sexual assault survivors across the country post his public media appearances; that he immediately posted an email on 30th Nov 2013 at 08.30 pm from his email id [email address redacted] having subject “Mr. Tejpal, the Complainant Was Not "participating with Elan" to the friends and media people. He also produced the print out of his said email. Thus the statement of [Name Redacted] particularly his observation regarding victim’s traumatic state and discomfort after sexual assault on her by Tarun Tejpal belies the claim of accused Tarun Tejpal and similar media reports regarding victim’s participation with élan in the conference after the incident.