ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On the Tehelka Case

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), from the very beginning, has supported the complaint of the woman journalist of Tehelka magazine who accused the editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, of rape and sexual assault. PUCL salutes her courage for breaking the silence on rape and sexual intimidation carried out by her senior colleague and editor. We have also admired the consistent and principled manner in which the young girl has stated her case, initially via internal emails within Tehelka, and later on to the media, neither allowing vituperation or anger at the blatant violation of her body to sensationalise her case or to prevaricate about the fact of the offence having been committed. Through her dignified behaviour she stands as a model to all women who suffer similar sexual violence – that the dignity of a woman’s body cannot be a plaything for anybody howsoever influential and powerful they be. By the same token, we also denounce the vilification campaign carried out by Tarun Tejpal and his lawyers against the complainant by seeking to impute that the entire crime was actually a “consensual” act or at trying to trivialise the crime by calling it “light-hearted banter”.

PUCL wishes to point out that Tehelka, which has extensively covered cases of sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual violence, has itself not constituted an independent internal complaints committee as mandated by the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court to look into allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is most unfortunate and unacceptable. We especially note with concern the response of the then managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury whom the woman journalist first approached with her complaint of rape and sexual assault by Tarun Tejpal. As the managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury, had an institutional responsibility under the criminal laws as also under the Vishaka Guidelines to report the crime forthwith; instead the response was one of diverting, diluting and covering up the incident. Her response, akin to how most male-dominated institutions respond to such accusations, is not just unfortunate but also unacceptable and to be denounced.  

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