Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tarun Tejpal in police custody

Tarun Tejpal is in police custody in Goa. What a fall for a man who felled many people. The man thrived on entrapment journalism by means illegal and immoral. Many people lapped it up and ignored legal and moral issues. The fall was dramatic and sudden.
The news broke out on the evening of 20/11/2013 and after that dominated the headlines. I will call the victim Dinah. She was an employee of Tehelka. Her father was friend of Tarun Tejpal. She was friend of Tarun Tejpal’s daughter. In 18/11/2103 she had sent her complaint about what Tarun Tejpal did to her on 7 & 8/11/2013 during Think Fest at Grand Hyatt in Goa to Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor of Tehelka. The complaint became public. It had details of sex crimes by Tarun Tejpal in hotel lifts. Soon Tarun Tejpal’s offer to recuse himself for six months and Shoma’s email to employees forwarding the same became public. There was outrage. People called recusal as paid vacation. Soon Goa police swung into action. They registered an FIR, questioned Shoma Chaudhury and three colleagues of Dinah. Tarun Tejpal disappeared.
There were some who supported Tarun Tejpal. Rahul Singh and Sanjoy Roy were among them. Jayanthi Natarajan came to defend Tarun Tejpal saying Goa police acted with alacrity. Victims of Tehelka’s sting operations were happy. BJP members were gloating. Congress members were perplexed. Six Tehelka employees, including Dinah, resigned.
Shoma Chaudhury’s cover-up attempts failed. She said the victim was satisfied. That was contradicted. She asked one journalist “Are you the aggrieved party?” That offended many people. She said Tarun Tejpal had another version. She overrode it. She announced a committee headed by Urvashi Butalia to inquire about the complaint. Urvashi Butalia refused to head the committee. Revati Laul who was the first to resign after the news broke out appeared on TV channels and said there is only one version, Shoma and Tarun are working in tandem. Character assassination of Dinah was frowned upon by many. Arundhati Roy said character assassination is Rape No. 2.
Shoma Chaudhury resigned at 6 a.m. on 27/11/2013. BJP members protested outside her house. Vijay Jolly blackened her nameplate. He wrote “accused” on it. She got police protection. She appeared before National Commission for Women (NCW). NCW was not satisfied with Shoma’s replies.
Tarun Tejpal attempted intimidation. He did not succeed. He did not heed the summons by Goa police to appear before them by 3 p.m. on Thursday, 27/11/2013. Next morning his house was raided. He was not found. His wife denied knowing his whereabouts. He obtained interim bail from Goa court and appeared at Delhi airport. Soon TV reporters appeared there and boarded the same flight. The arguments in Sessions Court continued on Saturday. Prosecutor Satish Lotlikar said to defence “Your contention is that your immaculate reputation will be damaged. May we tell you that it’s already gone for a toss. And mere detention under police custody won’t do any further damage.” The arguments were over by 1 p.m.
From 4.30 p.m. people were waiting for the verdict. It came at 8.05 p.m. The judge, Anuja Prabhudesai, rejected the bail plea. On Sunday, 1/12/2013 prosecution wanted 14 days police custody, defence opposed it, Judicial Magistrate Shama Joshi granted six days police custody.
There was one report in Firstpost that while Tehelka employees got their salaries late, Tejpal family members and Shoma Chaudhury made lot of money by selling their shares to companies which disappeared without a trace. Shoma Chaudhury made 66 lakh rupees. Tejpals made lakhs or crores.
Tehelka has been a tool of Congress. Its sting operations favoured Congress. When others did sting operations that went against Congress Tehelka tried to discredit them. CNN-IBN and Sudheendra Kulkarni did a sting operation in cash for votes scam. Shoma Chaudhury said BJP MPs were looking for buyers. Tehelka opposed movement against corruption. Now Shoma Chaudhury stands discredited. Her writings and speeches against sex crimes sound hollow. She had presided over a seminar on rape during Think Fest. Her actions did not match her words.
What is to be said about women lawyers who defend rapists and molesters? What feminists have to say about such lawyers?
How will Robert De Niro and Amitabh Bachchan feel? They had taken part in Think Fest.
Some have raised questions about using journalists about non-journalist duties. Escorting is not the duty of a journalist. Besides that, Think Fest was organised by Thinkworks Pvt. Ltd. Why were employees of Tehelka used for that? Sponsors thought Think Fest was organised by Tehelka. Think Fest used Tehelka brand name.
Someone commented about resignation letters of Tehelka employees. She said they spill into several pages and could compete with Ph. D. thesis. She wanted them to be brief. It is left to each employee to write resignation letter the way he/she wants. If an employee quits under unusual circumstances and wants to mention all details in resignation letter, it is his/her choice.
Kapil Sibal had given five lakh rupees donation to Tehelka in 2003. Aamir Khan and Nandita Das said to have given one lakh rupees each. Congress came to power in Centre in 2004 and after that Tarun Tejpal was on ascendant. After the complaint became public, things started to change. Tarun Tejpal’s name was deleted from the list of persons selected to be on Prasar Bharati’s Board.
There are many sting operators going around doing hatchet jobs. Some of them are ex-employees of Tehelka. Aniruddha Bahal started Cobrapost. Ashish Khetan started Gulail. They should beware. If any crime by them is known to people there will be scrutiny. Media glare will be on them. Anyway, the law of diminishing returns applies to sting operations. Media Sarkar’s sting operation on AAP failed.

Updated: December 3, 2013 — 7:56 am

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