Indian editor Tarun Tejpal charged with sexual assault

Tarun Tejpal faces up to seven years in prison for assaulting a female colleague in a hotel lift

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 10:20pm

Indian police charged the high-profile editor of an investigative magazine on Monday with sexually assaulting a female colleague in the elevator of a five-star hotel in the resort state of Goa.

Police also said former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal tried to evade arrest for several weeks after being accused. He has been in custody since November 30 and faces a bail hearing on Tuesday.

Under newly expanded Indian laws on women’s safety, Tejpal was also charged with rape and outraging the woman’s modesty. If convicted he could face up to seven years in prison.

The case against Tejpal has stunned many in India, in part because he was the face of a weekly investigative magazine that has pushed Indian society to confront corruption and sexual violence.

The woman said Tejpal assaulted her twice in a hotel elevator, on November 7 and 8, when the magazine was hosting its annual conference of Indian leaders, newsmakers and celebrities.

The woman’s duties at the conference involved escorting Robert De Niro and his daughter to events.

As the allegations became public, Tejpal first apologised for “a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation” and said he was stepping down for six months. Later, he described the sexual encounter as consensual and fleeting.

Tejpal came under investigation after the woman told the magazine’s managing editor about the alleged assault. The woman has not been named in line with Indian laws protecting identities in sexual assault cases.

Indian media chronicled every turn in the case, from leaked emails and police reports to a resignation letter in which the accuser said she endured “intimidation, character assassination and slander.”

Six other senior staff members have also resigned.

Tehelka, which means upheaval or sensation in Hindi, is closely followed by Indian journalists and the English-speaking elite. Using sting operations and exposes, the magazine has taken aim at high-level corruption in India.