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Probe begins in Tehelka rape case,CCTV footage outside lift a ‘crucial proof’

Police conducted search at Tehelka office and seized Shoma Chaudhury's laptop and hard disk.

Written by Prawesh Lama | New Delhi/ Panaji |
November 24, 2013 2:25:24 am

A day after registering an FIR against the founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka,Tarun Tejpal,accusing him of raping a colleague during a media event in Goa,a three-member team of the Goa Police Crime Branch questioned managing editor Shoma Chaudhury in Delhi on Saturday.

Photo: Express Photo

The team also conducted a search at the Tehelka office and seized Chaudhury’s laptop and hard disk.

Shortly after arriving in Delhi at around 3 pm,the Goa Police team,comprising DSP Sammy Taveras,Inspector Sunita Sawant — the investigating officer and also the complainant on behalf of the victim — and Head Constable Datta,questioned Chaudhury at the Goa Sadan. The team also sought her help in retrieving the emails sent by the victim.

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Chaudhury then proceeded to the Tehelka office,where the Goa Police team,accompanied by the local police and Crime Branch personnel,arrived at around 4.45 pm,and were there until late in the night. Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav was among the officials present at the Tehelka office.

Photo: IE

While Chaudhury’s statement was recorded,police sources said other office employees,including those whom the victim had sent a copy of her complaint,were also questioned. According to these sources,the statements of these employees are likely to be recorded on Sunday.

Goa DGP Kishen Kumar confirmed that Tejpal was yet to be contacted. “The investigation will not be complete in just a day… The investigating officer of the case will contact them,” he said. Sources said Tejpal was likely to be questioned after the Goa Police collect the “evidence” from the Tehelka office and take the statement of the victim,who is yet to join the probe.

Earlier in the day,Chaudhury said,“I have been cooperating with the Goa Police… There is a difference between me going to the police and initiating a case that my colleague may not want voluntarily and the state initiating a case with which I will,of course,cooperate and I have been cooperating.”

According to sources,Chaudhury told the police that Tejpal was ready to join the probe. These sources said that while Tejpal’s arrest was imminent,the police had also tried to contact the victim. The investigating officials are also reported to be probing Chaudhury’s role in any destruction of evidence.

“The Goa Police will be staying in the city for a day or two. Tejpal has not been arrested as of now,” said a senior Delhi Police official.

Meanwhile,Goa Police sources said a crucial CCTV camera placed just outside the lift of Block 7 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel,where the incident allegedly occurred,has recorded the complainant and is being seen as a “crucial evidence”.

While Goa Police DIG OP Mishra said at a press conference that there was no “specific camera” in the lifts,the sources said they have been able to “match and reconstruct” allegations made by the complainant from the footage retrieved. Sources said a clip where the complainant is seen walking “hurriedly with apparent fear” matches the period and time of the day as alleged by her in the mail sent to Chaudhury.

Police are now trying to also match CCTV footage of every floor lobby to check if the lifts were made to be in circuit as the victim has alleged. They have found a few cameras in the lobby placed such as to record the entry and exit of people from the lifts.

Formally “freezing” the collected video footage from inside the hotel,the Goa Police Crime Branch described the resort as the “crime scene”. Teams were deputed to map the entire place,including the lift,lobbies and every such space where the victim and the accused are seen in the seized footage.

“The probe is going the classical way. In fact,if the girl comes forward and repeats her statement,we have 80 per cent of the case,” said Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Reacting strongly to Tejpal’s statement there could be “political forces” behind the probe,he said,“It only shows he is taking good advice from his lawyers.”

Parrikar said the CCTV footage was not going to be the only evidence. “I have not checked what the police have found till now on the footage or the cameras. But having said that,such crime (rape) is never done by people in places where there are CCTV cameras. Every rape,in that context,doesn’t have CCTV evidence to go for punishment,” he said.

He said the victim’s email statement is being seen as the “main body of evidence”,adding that Tejpal’s “mistakes and a lot of circumstantial things” have come handy. “The new law is very clear on the onus of the crime,and in his email he has declared punishment himself,taken decisions himself. For the police,that email of his will remain his proof of guilt,and thus proof of crime.”

On Tejpal’s statements regarding the CCTV footage,Parrikar said,“He should know,after all it is his habit to snoop. He is well-known for that. When you make a business of snooping,you should not be worried of any footage. We assure him that the police of this state,with the evidence they have,will give him justice… full justice.”

Till the victim comes forward to record her statement,the Goa Police said the “relevant excerpts from her email” have been used for the FIR,with the purpose of getting a strong conviction.

Visitors were barred from entering the hotel on Saturday. All other facilities,including the coffee shop and restaurants,remained out of bounds for over six hours till the police finished the first round of questioning. The owners of the hotel have also arrived in Panaji. “We have been asked not to allow any new visitor to the premises till further instructions,” said a hotel official.

Meanwhile,there was chaos outside Tejpal’s Delhi residence as a crowd of media thronged the area through the day. While his family members were spotted outside the house,Tejpal was not seen. “He is not at home. His parents have come from their native place. We have not seen him since Friday,” said a domestic help.

— With inputs from Shalini Narayan in New Delhi

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