Tarun Tejpal case: Lack of victim's complaint no bar for filing FIR, say lawyers
By Express News Service | Published: 22nd November 2013 07:19 AM |
The resignation of Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal on Wednesday for alleged sexual assault on a woman employee, and the subsequent stand of the magazine that the issue was an “internal matter”, elicited strong responses from the women legal fraternity in the city.
According to women lawyers, no case of sexual assault can be dismissed as internal matter of an organisation as it involves a crime, the ways of dealing with which have clearly been articulated by the highest courts of the land on numerous occasions.
Noted human rights lawyer D Nagasaila said the allegation against Tejpal was such that it did not require lodging of a complaint to initiate criminal process. “The Criminal Procedure Code is clear on this issue. The police can proceed with the registration of an FIR based on any information that points to a cognizable offence. The current case is no exception,” she pointed out.
The reported response of Tehelka’s managing editor Shoma Chaudhury that the case was an internal matter of the organisation, was absurd. “Any crime in our jurisprudence is seen as a crime against the State. That is why the State becomes a prosecutor. Therefore, how could this issue be an internal matter?” she questioned.
President of the Women Lawyers’ Association at the Madras High Court, D Prassanna, pointed out that Tejpal’s own decision to step down for six months trivialised the matter completely. “If this can be taken as an example, then murderers will get away with giving themselves soft punishments. Punishment cannot be a transaction between two private people. Why do you have courts then?” she said.
Lawyer Sudha Ramalingam said that the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, passed by Parliament, has stringent clauses that would come into play in the current case.
The law terms as harassment any interference with women’s work or creating an intimidating and hostile environment at workplace. This includes physical contact and advances and demand for sexual favours, which seems to be the issue at hand.
“The allegations are of very serious nature and could certainly be termed as sexual assault. But a larger issue here is that the incident is showing us that the Act is not being executed properly. Same goes for the Vishaka case judgment of the Supreme Court,” she said. The SC had directed that every organisation with women employees constitute a special cell to deal with cases of sexual harassment.