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Rediff.com  » News » Shoma Chaudhury says Tehelka won't go to police with complaint

Shoma Chaudhury says Tehelka won't go to police with complaint

Last updated on: November 22, 2013 20:43 IST

Facing allegations of a cover-up in the alleged sexual assault of a woman colleague by Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal, its Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury on Friday remained defiant, saying they would not approach the police with the complaint and it was for the victim to decide.

With questions being raised over the way the magazine treated the incident in Goa as an internal issue, she, however, admitted to making some mistakes like claiming on behalf of the victim that she was satisfied with "action" against Tejpal.

Chaudhury had no answer to repeated questions why Tehelka did not report the matter to police and sought to make it an "internal" issue.

She replied that she was extremely focused on addressing the victim's plea for redressal and "forgot that there is a public world that I need to interface with. If I have had even ten minutes to compose myself I would have begun to act with greater measure."

However, she maintained that it was the girl's call to make it a police case or not.

"The right to go to police is hers (victim's). I am not going to the police on my own," Chaudhury said, adding she will cooperate in the probe as long as she is in the post. "If it is hard for me to cooperate, then I will step down," she said.

On Goa police charge that Tehelka is not cooperating, "It is a very difficult time for the magazine. If Goa government says we are not cooperating, there is no space or time to cooperate unless she (victim) goes to the police."

She said when the girl approached her with her complaint she was not driven by vengeance. "She wanted to heal so I did not go to police".

At one stage she even said that the media was jumping to conclusion that it is a sexual assault and rape. Chaudhury referred to her conversation with Tejpal and said when she confronted him about the matter "very very angrily", he had a different version which she claimed to have overruled when getting his apology.

"I do feel a sense of outrage and betrayal but he has a different version," she said.

Asked if Tehelka, which claims to have set high standards in its investigation reports, was following double standards in this case, Chaudhury said a three-member committee has been set up which will hear both the sides.

"You are jumping to conclusions that it is sexual assault and rape," she shot back. To another question that the committee is a cosy-club as it is headed by Urvashi Butalia, a friend of Tejpal, she said the media was pre-judging the issue.

Chaudhury defended her actions in the matter saying she had confronted Tejpal, after which he stepped down from his post for six months and apologised to the victim.

"I absolutely over-ruled his version and asked for unilateral unconditional apology from him," Chaudhury said.

"The truth is and I will be speaking out in great detail about this, the truth is the moment I got this complaint, (which) has not been for many days but actually only on Monday this week, I acted absolutely wholly and solely driven by my desire to address the aggrieved journalist's sense of injury and to act in her interest," she said.

One of the mistakes she admitted to have made was when she said that the girl was satisfied with Tejpal's apology. She said, "I could have used a different word".

Asked about her angry retort to journalists -- "are you the aggrieved party" – when they were seeking her comments about the incident, she said, "I mean, it was tonally very very wrong. It was not my intent."

She also accepted that it was a mistake that as the managing editor she had not ensured setting up of a committee to hear complaints of sexual harassment at workplace in accordance with the Visakha guidelines.

She said that the journalist had complained to her on Monday and the unconditional apology was extended to her on Tuesday.

"Further to this he stepped down, because my sense was that regardless of differing versions, whether it was consensual or non consensual, as a leader of the institution he had transgressed and in addition to her, he had betrayed the faith of other journalists," Chaudhury said.

Asked about BJP leader Arun Jaitley's comments that a "private treaty" between Tejpal and Choudhary cannot "wipe out the penal consequence of rape," she said she was amazed by the comments by the leader of his stature and legal acumen.

Chaudhury said the letter was leaked so instantaneously that further action was not possible in a measured way.

"To my understanding because I did speak to the aggrieved journalist just before I sent the letters, she told me that this was something that showed her he was genuinely sorry for what happened that she felt no further need for vengeance, that she was driven by need for justice and now needed to heal.

"Which is why when it leaked, I would have phrased it differently. Because I was besieged by so many calls, I said she was satisfied with it. It is only from TV that I got to know that she was deeply disappointed by my response," she added.

Chaudhury said that the committee "will have impartial members of unimpeachable character and reputation and we are trying to set it up at the very earliest".

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