Tarun is Go Goa Gone - The New Indian Express

Tarun is Go Goa Gone

Published: 01st Dec 2013 07:51:36 AM

The past has come to haunt Tarun Tejpal the editor of Tehelka, with an uncertain future after Goa Sessions Court Judge Anuja Prabhudesai rejected his anticipatory bail plea, ending a suspenseful wait that lasted 24 hours. Wearing a black jacket, a blue shirt and khakhi pants, the celebrity editor, accused of raping a junior colleague, waited at the Crime Branch office at Dona Paula as the judgment took three-and-a-half hours to be drafted. The court order was to be pronounced at 4.30 pm, but dragged on keeping the police, lawyers, the media and a mass of onlookers outside the Panaji court on tenterhooks. The judge took her time, meticulously weighing the crime, evidence and consequences to deliver her judgment at 8pm. The prosecution demanded 14 days’ custodial interrogation of Tejpal. After arrest, he will be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours. The police will seek custodial interrogation and Tejpal can seek bail. It is the end of a media empire built on Left-liberal moralism, whose political loyalties are being questioned. In the last two days, Tejpal accused the BJP of engineering a conspiracy to put him in jail.

While Tejpal’s counsel Geeta Luthra opposed his custody arguing he had never evaded arrest, public prosecutor Saresh Lotlikar said Tejpal should be in police custody for proper interrogation—the editor had surfaced only after getting interim relief from court on Friday and had presented himself at crime branch office at Dona Paula in the morning, saying he was available and not evading arrest. “The accused has been changing colours like a chameleon through different statements,” he told the judge, implying that the police would want to compare Tejpal’s differing versions of what happened on the nights of November 7 and 8, with the statements made by the victim of the editor’s aggressive advances. Lotlikar affirmed that the CCTV footage of the hotel has enough evidence to confirm the allegation of rape. To make a strong case for police custody for Tejpal, he also referred to the victim’s complaint alleging harassment from Tejpal’s family to make a deal. Luthra had promised the court that Tejpal would stay in Goa as long as he was needed and would even surrender his passport, and not visit Mumbai where the victim lives. “There should not be any fear that he (Tejpal) will tamper with witnesses or evidence,” she said. Luthra’s argument that Tejpal’s  “liberty be preserved” did not win the day that stretched into the early hours of the night.

But the affair had plunged Tehelka into darkness. Last week, Rana Ayub, a senior journalist, resigned over the affair becoming the sixth to do so. Insiders say even the chairs want to escape from Tehelka. Media teams continued to camp outside Tejpal’s residence. As the victim’s mother walked to Pandav Nagar police station to complain against intimidation from a close family member of Tejpal, she became the symbol of a brave woman joining the fight against the mighty and the influential for her daughter’s honour.

When the police reached his house in a bid to arrest him, on November 29, Tejpal was missing from the house. His wife Geetan Batra told the police she wasn’t aware of his whereabouts. She refused to divulge any details about her husband. The cops had to return empty handed with the non-bailable warrant even after spending about 90 minutes at Tejpal’s place. The police action came after they had rejected Tejpal’s request for time until Saturday to appear before them for investigations. It turned into a high profile cat and mouse chase. At around 1 pm, he was finally seen at the New Delhi airport dressed in a black coat —his white beard gave the black a fitting contrast.  Finally, when Tejpal was seen at the Delhi airport with his family members in the afternoon, the cameras captured scenes of the rape-accused being hugged lovingly by his daughter and sister. It certainly wasn’t a moment for the family album, but it prepared an emotional stage for a “family man” with two loving daughters, a sister, and a wife—women who have stood by him in the background of crime he has committed against another woman (who is his colleague, a friend’s daughter and daughters’ friend). In the Indigo flight, Tejpal was flanked by four women of his family and looked composed as they circled him. He was seen laughing and chatting with his wife, sister, one daughter. In the flight, his relatives yelled at camera persons who wanted to capture him. The family chatted away over sandwiches, wafers and coffee they had ordered. On his way to the plane restroom midflight, when he was asked what he would do about the rape charge, he said, “.. It’s a political vendetta. I’ll get bail,” he declared to journalists at the airport. In a heart-wrenching contrast, the victim continued to reiterate her lone fight for justice through another statement. 

In the previous week, the Tehelka case has exposed several layers of outrage. With NCW and few women’s rights activists asserting the rights of a woman in respect with her body, the previous week could have given the country a much-required open debate and understanding on the rape laws. Instead, the debate became a political free for all between the Congress and the BJP leaders. Outrage reigned; against rape; for the sake of the victim’s privacy and another to safeguard that of the accused. 

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