For favour of publication
Press Statement on the Tehelka Sexual Assault Case:
- Expresses Solidarity with the struggle of the Tehelka Journalist who raised her voice against Rape and Intimidation by the Ex-Editor Tarun Tejpal.
- Demands fair investigation and early charge sheet into the matter, from the Goa Police.
- Considers Six Day of Custodial interrogation of Tarun Tejpal granted by the Goa Judicial Magistrate Court unnecessary and invidious.
- Appeals that police custody and the case not become a tool in the hands of BJP administered Goa police to settle scores with Tejpal.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties from the very beginning has supported the complaint of the woman journalist of Tehelka magazine who accused the editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, of rape and sexual assault. PUCL salutes her courage for breaking the silence on rape and sexual intimidation carried out by her senior colleague and editor. We have also admired the consistent and principled manner in which the young girl stated her case, initially via internal emails within Tehelka, and later on to the media, neither allowing vituperation or anger at the blatant violation of her body to sensationalise her case or to prevaricate about the fact of the offence having been committed. Through her dignified stand she stands as a model to all women who suffer similar sexual violence, that the dignity of a woman’s body cannot be a plaything for anybody howsoever influential and powerful they be. By the same token, we also denounce the vilification campaign carried out by Tarun Tejpal and his lawyers against the complainant by seeking to impute that the entire crime was actually a `consensual’ act or at trying to trivialise the crime by calling it “light hearted banter”.
PUCL wishes to point out that Tehelka, which has extensively covered cases of sexual harassment in the work place and sexual violence, has itself not constituted an independent internal complaints committee as mandated by the Vishakha Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court to look into allegations of sexual harassment in the work place. This is most unfortunate and unacceptable. We especially note with concern the response of the Managing Editor, Shoma Choudhury whom the woman journalist first approached with her complaint of rape and sexual assault by Tarun Tejpal. As the Managing Editor, Shoma Choudhury, had an institutional responsibility under the criminal laws as also under the Visakha guidelines to report the crime forthwith; instead the response was one of diverting, diluting and covering up the incident. Such a response akin to how most male dominated institutions respond to such accusations, is not just unfortunate but also unacceptable and to be denounced.
We therefore once again raise our voice in support of the demand for the implementation of Vishakha Guidelines which are an effort towards enforcing sexual harassment free workplace norms for all women, particularly for women in the media.
Six Days Custodial Interrogation : Unnecessary and a tool to harass Tejpal?
While we support the prosecution of Tarun Tejpal, we at the same time would like to express our concern over the granting of six days police custody of the accused by the Judicial Magistrate to the Goa State police. The grant of PC has to be seen in the background of the complainant having recorded a sec. 164 Criminal Procedure Code statement before the local Magistrate and the police having seized all the relevant emails and other records including CC Video tapes form the hotel. The accused, Tarun Tejpal, has already been questioned by the police.
Considering the very limited frame of reference of the complainant’s case, the legality of granting days PC is questionable. What causes concern is that some papers report that the 6-days are required to extract a confession out of Tarun Tejpal. Whatever the veracity of this, we are concerned that force may be used to extract an involuntary confession This is totally against the law and unacceptable.
It is also difficult not to ignore the allegation that the prosecution is using the judicial process as a tool to humiliate and harass the accused. We clarify that in the present case the evidence that needs to be collected could have been gathered in a day and the accused ought to have been sent into judicial custody. In any case, we hope that no further extension of Police custody is granted at the end of the current remand period. We also call upon the Goa police not to indulge in torture or in any way, maltreatment of the accused Tarun Tejpal.
PUCL would like to stress that the criminal justice system, and the police who are its administrators, are under a constitutional obligation to remain unbiased, independent and committed to the truth. The police are also under a constitutional duty to implement the law without fear or favour of the ruling government. Unfortunately, in the current case, we cannot lose sight of the conflict-ridden and acrimonious relations between the ruling BJP government and the Tehelka magazine. We are concerned that this specific case of sexual violence and assault on a woman journalist may become politicized and become the basis for settling scores by the ruling BJP government against Tarun Tejpal. If this were to happen, it will seriously weaken the case of the woman journalist, divert attention from the serious nature of such sexual assaults and in the end denigrate the entire criminal justice system.
PUCL condemns and expresses concern over the vandalisation of residence of Shoma Choudhary, former Executive Editor of Tehelka by some members of the BJP last week. This is unacceptable and anti-democratic act.
In conclusion, PUCL calls upon all political parties, organisations and other groups to respect the sensitivities of the victims and the serious nature of the rape case and to desist from creating further controversies.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha Kavita Srivastava
President National Secretary General Secretary