Seventy nine days after arresting Tarun Tejpal, the Goa Police Crime Branch filed the chargesheet in the court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Panaji, on Monday, accusing the former editor of Tehelka of rape under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, and several sections of the IPC.
Tejpal, who is currently in Sada Jail, Goa, was chargesheeted under all the seven sections for which he has been booked: 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.
Tejpal has been accused by a former junior colleague of assaulting her in a lift at the Grand Hyatt hotel, Bambolim, on two occasions on November 7 and 8, 2013, during the Thinkfest event. Investigators said this was the first time that charges had been brought anywhere in the country under the new section 376(2)(k).
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While Tejpal’s admission — in an e-mail sent to the victim on November 19, and another, titled “Atonement”, sent to Tehelka’s then managing editor Shoma Chaudhury on November 20 — and the woman’s statement constitute the primary evidence against him, investigators have found a crucial bit of CCTV footage that appears to establish body language immediately after one of the alleged assaults.
This bit of video taken at 23:26:08 hrs on November 7 by a camera on the second floor of the hotel, shows, according to the chargesheet, that “…Tejpal and victim came out of the lift and then walked towards the staircase during which time accused is seen wiping his mouth with left hand and the victim adjusting and making her dress proper with her left hand”.
The chargesheet says, “…Tejpal and victim were in the lift of Guest House No. 7 for 129 seconds (2 minutes 9 seconds) as seen from the CCTV footage.”
Sources close to the investigation said this clip, along with one from November 8, corroborates the allegations made by the woman in her original e-mail and, later, in her statement to the magistrate.
About the November 8 clip, the chargesheet says, the “door of the lift opened and the victim hurriedly came out of the lift first appearing to be looking out for someone, followed by the accused” at 21:01:11 hrs, which matches the time given by the woman. On this occasion, Tejpal is accused of assaulting the woman for 14 seconds.
The chargesheet reproduces Tejpal’s “formal apology e-mail” written to the woman and Chaudhury, in which he says, “…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”.
Subsequently, in the “Atonement” email, Tejpal wrote to Chaudhury, “The last days have been most testing and I squarely take the blame for this. 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.”
At a press conference on Monday, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said that a confession could come in any form. “The investigation agency has done a good job of collecting evidence in every form.”
The chargesheet notes the victim’s situation during the alleged assault: “It was like talking to a deaf person intent on doing exactly what he wanted.” After the first assault, the chargesheet says, “She wanted to cry, and could not do so in the presence of guests and dignitaries.”
The 2,846-page chargesheet is divided into 12 volumes, and includes the statements of 152 witnesses, at least 50 of whom are former and current employees of Tehelka and ThinkWorks.
On the basis of the evidence, the chargesheet states, “…It can be concluded that the victim… is a young woman journalist who was raped, sexually harassed and her modesty outraged by Tarun Tejpal; a person whom she trusted as a fatherly figure and respected as a senior colleague. This incident has caused serious psychological injury to the dignity, self-esteem and overall personality of victim…”
DIG O P Mishra said, “This is the first case registered by Goa Police in 2013 in which the amended sections against crime against women have been incorporated.
“…This is one case in which members of civil society volunteered to cooperate with the police investigation, and their statements were recorded by the IO as well as before the magistrate.”
Investigating Officer Sunita Sawant said the chargesheet was able to go into great detail about the relationship of trust between the accused and his alleged victim because of the new sections in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Mishra added that the provisions allow the prosecution to ask for a quick trial.
“We will be looking at 60 days from the date of the chargesheet being filed,” he said.
Among other details, the chargesheet describes events at Tehelka’s New Delhi office after Chaudhury received the victim’s e-mail. Neena Tejpal Sharma, Tejpal’s sister and director of Thinkfest, has stated “that on 18th November, 2013… she went to Tarun’s office. Tarun was present… Shoma appeared very upset. Shoma told them that she had received a mail from victim and forwarded the mail to them. She read the e-mail of victim forwarded by Shoma wherein victim had accused and complained that she was sexually assaulted by Tarun”.
Tejpal’s wife Geetan Batra has said that on November 18, he told “her that he wants to disclose something serious. He told her that on the night of the cocktail party of Robert De Niro and Amitabh Bachchan, both he and victim had a couple of drinks and shared a kiss and that now she (victim female) wanted a public apology. He apologised to her and asked to be forgiven; that he also told her that their daughter Tiya knows about the same”.
Officials said this was important, because it corroborated the victim’s statement that Tiya was among those in whom she confided.