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Archives for : Tehelka

SC grants interim bail to Tarun Tejpal

May 19, 2014 18:18:42 IST

New Delhi  : The Supreme Court Monday granted three weeks’ interim bail to Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal so that he could perform last rites of his mother, who passed away in Goa Sunday.

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The apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice A.K. Sikri passed the orders granting Tejpal interim bail after holding the hearing on his plea in their chamber.

A former junior woman colleague last year accused Tejpal of rape during ThinkFest, a high-profile conference organised by the Tehelka founder in Goa.

The victim claimed she was sexually assaulted twice Nov 7 and 8.

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Tarun Tejpal – Tehelka Rape Case – Robert De Niro’s replies to Goa Police #Vaw


Smita Nair | Mumbai | Updated: May 06 2014, 04:22 IST
Robert De Niro’s response will form a part of the supplementary chargesheet
Five months after he was contacted by the Goa Police, Hollywood actor Robert De Niro has confirmed the role and presence of the Tehelka journalist who has accused the magazine’s founder editor of rape at Think Fest, the magazine’s annual media event in November 2013.

An email response routed through the office of the actor’s attorneys Harvey & Hackett, New York, to the police’s detailed questionnaire has confirmed that the woman journalist was De Niro’s liaison at the event. She was given the responsibility of chaperoning De Niro and his daughter Drena on all three days of the event at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Goa.

De Niro’s response will form a part of the supplementary chargesheet, sources told The Indian Express. On March 6, 2014, investigators had moved an application at the fast track court in Panaji under section 173(8) of the CrPC, seeking time to include the response of a “witness outside the country” in the supplementary chargesheet.

According to prosecution sources, De Niro’s response is pertinent to establish the role of the complainant at the venue, and to establish her presence, and that of the accused, at the scene of the alleged crime. De Niro has also responded to specific queries on his itinerary and movements during his stay in Goa, the sources said.

Tejpal faces charges under sections 376(2)(f) [rape by a person in a position of control or dominance over a woman] of the IPC, and 376(2)(k) [rape by a relative or guardian or a person in a position of trust or authority, and rape by a person in a fiduciary position] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.

De Niro’s response, the sources said, was significant in the wake of additional charges that have been pressed against Tejpal, where it is essential to prove the victim’s circumstances at the time of the alleged crime.

“Both the rape allegations are from events that happened inside the lift in Block 7, where on both the occasions, the accused had asked the victim to accompany him to the actor’s room,” an official said.

In its chargesheet filed on February 17, the Goa Police stated that the complainant had been introduced to the actor and his daughter by Tejpal on November 7. They were escorted to their respective rooms, numbers 7207 and 7210 in Block 7 on the second floor.

The editor and the complainant then walked out of Block 7 and reached the ground floor, the

chargesheet says. Tejpal then allegedly asked the journalist to return to the actor’s room to wake him up. He is alleged to have raped the woman inside the lift on their way to the second floor to De Niro’s room.

The complainant has alleged that on November 8, she was asked by Tejpal to accompany him to pick something up from the actor’s room. She has alleged she was sexually assaulted a second time in the lift while on their way.

De Niro had earlier responded through his publicist Stan Rosenfield that he “was not aware of this incident until he returned to New York”


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Tehelka up for sale

K.D. Singh said that while he did not want the Tehelka brand to die, he was negotiating with different individuals to sell the 65.75 per cent stake in Anant Media held by Royal Building. PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA and MOHAMMAD GHAZALI explore the financials of the company and its principal stakeholder. Pix: KD Singh and Tarun Tejpal
Posted/Updated Sunday, Apr 13 19:44:43, 2014

The person who controls the company which currently publishes the iconic magazine–whose founder editor Tarun Tejpal has been behind bars from 30 November facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a junior colleague–wants to sell his stake in the firm. But the seller, Kanwar Deep Singh, a controversial Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament belonging to the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), is yet to hone in on a buyer though he claims he has received various offers and is close to clinching a deal.

Senior journalists working with the weekly claim that Singh, whose company, Royal Building and Infrastructure Private Limited, owns two-thirds of the shares of Anant Media Private Limited (formerly Agni Media) which brings out Tehelka, has categorically told them that he is keen on ensuring that the media organization not just survives but also prospers.

Tehelka (literally meaning “sensation” in Hindi) was founded as a website by Tejpal and Aniruddha Bahal in 2000. It became a printed tabloid-cum-website in 2004 and then, a regular magazine in 2007. Its staffers have conducted a number of sting operations, including ones to reveal cricket match fixing, corruption in defence purchases and against those accused of communal violence in Gujarat.

In a telephonic interview with, K.D. Singh said that while he “did not want the Tehelka brand to die”, he was negotiating with different individuals to sell the 65.75 per cent stake in Anant Media held by Royal Building, the company he heads as chairman emeritus. “The process is on…it (the deal) can be concluded in a week or it could take a few months,” he said, while on the campaign trail for his party in West Bengal.

Why did he want to sell his stake in Anant Media? “This is not my cup of tea,” said the 52-year-old businessman-turned-politician who entered the upper house of Parliament in 2010 nominated by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (only to change his political affiliation to the TMC a few months later).

A company headed by him (Alchemist Media) brought out a business daily, Financial World,  first out of Chandigarh, then out of Delhi from April 2011 before shutting down its operations less than two years later. “This (meaning publishing) is not my forte…I want to concentrate on my work as a Parliamentarian,” said Singh, who also happens to be president of the Indian Hockey Federation and the Haryana Hockey Association.

Having started businesses in making wire mesh and steel fencing in 1988 under the banner of Turbo Industries in Chandigarh, the name of the corporate group led by Singh was changed to the Alchemist group in 2004.

The group is currently in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, food-processing, poultry (with its Republic of Chicken brand), real estate, restaurants, infrastructure development, road building technology, aviation, education and tea estates. The 11 companies in the group employ over 9,700 people and have a combined turnover of Rs 10,000 crore, according to the group’s official website.

K.D. Singh’s son, Karan Deep Singh, became chairman of the group after the former re-designated himself as chairman emeritus in 2012.

In 2011, Royal Building had picked up 1,30,510 equity shares with a face value of Rs 10 each of Anant Media at a premium of Rs 2,505 per share, implying a total investment of Rs 31.95 crore.

Investigations conducted by Raman Kirpal (a former employee of Tehelka) published in on 28 November 2013 revealed a series of questionable transactions in the shares of Anant Media. (See here. )

In June 2006, Shoma Chaudhury, the magazine’s then editor, features, sold a third of the 1,500 equity shares allotted to her at a price of Rs 10 each to A.K. Gurtu Holdings Private Limited at a premium of Rs 13,189 per share, thus earning nearly Rs 66 lakh on an investment of Rs 5,000 in less than three years.

Tarun Tejpal’s wife Geetan Batra sold 2,000 equity shares to the same company at a premium of Rs 13,189 per share, earning Rs 2.64 crore. Tejpal’s brother Minty Kunwar sold 1,500 shares to A.K. Gurtu Holdings for nearly Rs 2 crore, their father Inderjit Tejpal offloaded 1,000 shares to the same firm for Rs 1.32 crore and their mother Shakuntla sold 1,000 shares for Rs 1.32 crore. Tarun’s sister Neena T. Sharma, who was the company’s chief operating officer, sold 432 shares for Rs 57 lakh.

On the day most of these transactions took place, Tarun himself acquired 4,125 shares from Shankar Sharma and Devina Mehra (who had invested in the company in 2000) but at the par value of Rs 10 per share.

Raman Kirpal’s facts have not been denied so far. They are based on RoC figures. Tejpal basically used legal methods to increase the value of his assets and those of  his family and colleague. Government agencies such as the IT department will have to ascertain whether any laws were violated in the transactions relating to A K Gurtu holdings.

Besides Shoma Chaudhury, another individual who was not from the Tejpal family gained considerably from transacting in shares of Anant Media. He was Fakhruddin Taherbhai Khorakiwala, former sheriff of Mumbai, who headed the Wockhardt group, one of India’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology groups with an annual turnover in excess of $ 600 million, much of it from outside the country.

Khorakiwala, who passed away in July 2011, also headed the Akbarallys chain of departmental stores in Mumbai and was awarded the Padma Shri. In 2005,  he had “bailed out” Tehelka by investing Rs 4.65 crore in 19,326 equity shares of Anant Media at a premium of Rs 2,409.35 a share.

Anant Media’s balance-sheets reveal that Khorakiwala offloaded all his shares to A.K. Gurtu Holdings in 2006 at the premium of Rs 13,189 thereby earning a handsome profit of Rs 25.49 crore.

All these transactions were taking place while Anant Media was incurring losses.

Kirpal and other journalists tried to find out the names of the persons behind A.K. Gurtu Holdings, which invested Rs 40 crore in the company publishing Tehelka in 2006, and then just “disappeared”. The company did not exist at the addresses given in official documents.

According to Kirpal, A.K. Gurtu Holdings “suddenly folded (up) its investment in 2007 and its shares were transferred at a loss to two companies – Enlightened Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd and Weldon Polymers Ltd – at a premium of Rs 10,623.” Strangely, Enlightened Consultancy had the same address as that of A.K. Gurtu Holdings.

Two years later, in 2009, Enlightened Consultancy closed its operations after registering losses from the Rs 17 crore investment it made in Anant Media. However, Enlightened Consultancy funded Weldon Polymers Private Limited, which held 5.87 per cent of Anant Media’s shares.

In the same year, the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Patrika Private Limited, which publishes a leading Hindi daily by the same name, invested Rs 1.75 crore in Anant Media by buying 3,886 shares (or 1.96 per cent of the company’s total equity holding) at a premium of Rs 4,493.35 per Rs 10 share.

Government records indicate that at the end of 2013 the Tejpal family owned 23.25 per cent stake in Anant Media and Shoma Chaudhury owned an additional 0.5 per cent, whereas till 31 March 2011, Tarun Tejpal, his family and friends held approximately 47 per cent stake in the company.

Anant Media’s losses rose from Rs 39.5 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 55 crore in 2010-11 and further to Rs 66 crore the following year.

In 2012, Royal Building headed by K.D. Singh invested close to Rs 32 crore in Anant Media by buying 1,30,510 shares of the company at a premium of Rs 2,505 per share.

Records of the Registrar of Companies (RoC) in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs show that at that time, besides Royal Building, other shareholders in the company publishing Tehelka included London-based fashion designer Priyanka Gill (2.14 per cent) and two high-profile politicians from the country’s two largest political parties, Bharatiya Janata Party MP and former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani (0.08 per cent) and current Law Minister and Congress MP Kapil Sibal (0.04 per cent).

When questioned, Sibal told journalists that he had given a donation of Rs 5 lakh to Tejpal in 2003 and had not applied for any shares of Anant Media although the records of his own government’s RoC lists his name as a shareholder in the company.  (Sibal had been accused by the BJP of attempting to “shield” Tejpal in the sexual assault case on account of his association with Tehelka, a claim he has denied.)

There are reports that the recent financial transactions in Anant Media are being examined by various government bodies, including the Central Board of Direct Taxes in the Ministry of Finance.

Why had MP K.D. Singh chosen to invest nearly Rs 32 crore in Anant Media at a time when the company (as per the last balance sheet it has filed with the RoC for the 2011-12 financial year) had a negative net worth of Rs 12.8 crore and negative reserves and surplus to the extent of almost Rs 28 crore?

“The balance sheet of a media company does not often reflect its true market value,” Singh told The Hoot,  adding that when he had invested in Anant Media in 2011, an international firm (whose name he did not readily recall) had valued the Tehelka brand at Rs 120 crore.

How much did he hope to gain by selling his two-thirds stake in Anant Media? “I am willing to sell at the same price at which I bought the shares (or nearly Rs 32 crore) without adding interest,” he said.

After Royal Building became the biggest shareholder of Anant Media, three new directors were inducted into the company’s board. They were Dr Praveen Rathee (who remains the managing editor of the magazine), Satish Mehta and S.K. Ganju, who was subsequently replaced by Anil K. Oberoi.

In March 2014, Tarun Tejpal and his sister Neena both resigned as directors of the company. Singh pointed out that after Tejpal was accused of sexual assault, many journalists left the company. “The organization was in a state of turmoil,” he pointed out. “Given the exodus of talent, the publication needs to induct new professionals.”

After Neena Tejpal handed over charge, accountants went through the books of account of Anant Media. “For roughly five weeks in late-February and early-March, they conducted what was supposed to be due diligence of the company,” said an insider with knowledge of what happened, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Thereafter, in late-March, K.D. Singh himself met some of the senior journalists associated with Tehelka, including veteran columnist and editorial adviser Prem Shankar Jha (who is also an author and was press adviser to former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh) and executive editor Ramesh Sharma.

Singh met them in the Nehru Place office of the Alchemist group and not in the Anant Media office in Greater Kailash – II. As the MP pointed out: “I have always been a silent shareholder. I have never interfered in the management of the company and, in fact, have never  visited the Tehelka office… not even once in the last few years during the time I have been associated with the magazine.”

During his meeting with the senior journalists of the magazine, why did he assure them that he would invest more in Anant Media, help raise advertising revenue and getTehelka to provide content for the “a1Tehelka” television channel which has a prominent footprint in Haryana?

Said Singh: “I repeat that I don’t want the Tehelka brand to die but to grow under a new management. As for the television channel, it is owned by a separate company though it has a content agreement with Tehelka.”

Besides Royal Building, K.D. Singh, Tarun and Neena Tejpal are involved in another company, Amaraman India Private Limited, which came into existence in 2012. Tarun holds 70 per cent shares in this company while Singh owns 10 per cent. This company was supposed to collaborate with Doordarshan to produce 52 episodes of a television series celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema. However, “the project did not take off,” said Singh.

According to a journalist working with Tehelka who spoke off-the-record, his office was buzzing with speculation that one of the potential buyers for Royal Building’s stake in Anant Media is Singh’s fellow Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, Parimal Nathwani, group president, Reliance Industries Limited, India’s biggest private sector company headed by the country’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

When contacted by, a source close to Nathwani denied that either he, in his individual capacity, or RIL was interested in owning a controlling stake in the company that publishes Tehelka.

As for K.D. Singh, his track record as a businessman has been quite controversial.

In March 2011, he was intercepted at the airport in New Delhi before he left for Guwahati, Assam (where assembly elections were taking place) carrying Rs 57 lakh in cash. He was let off by officials of the income tax department who claimed he was carrying the money for “legitimate” business purposes. The officials were, however, suspended by the Election Commission after leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), political opponents of the TMC, complained.

Between July and September 2013, the Securities and Exchange Board of India barred group companies, Alchemist Holdings and Alchemist Infra Realty, from accepting deposits from the public and order them to repay Rs 1,400 crore that had been collected from around 1.5 million investors. According to media reports, the government has ordered a probe into the affairs of these companies by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in 2012.

Besides the two group companies named, another firm, Alchemist Capital is reportedly under the scanner of the ministry for allegedly accepting deposits against fictitious property certificates and for issuing shares to investors without proper regulatory approval. (See _alchemist-group-deposit-taking-companies-corporate-affairs-ministry and collective-investment-schemes-sebi-order-sebi-probe.)

The SEBI and the RoC have reportedly warned the company and its directors that prosecution proceedings would be initiated and criminal cases lodged for offences of “fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds” if its orders are not complied with.

In February 2009, the Income Tax Department raided premises of the Alchemist Group across India following which unaccounted money worth Rs 22 crore had to be surrendered.

In 2011, government agencies started investigations into investments made by Alchemist group companies in firms such as Usher Agro, Sel Manufacturing, Dhanus Tech, Pyramid Saimira and Resurgere Mines, following complaints that share prices of these companies had been rigged.

Member of Parliament Singh seems to have enough to worry about besides finding a buyer for his stake in the company that publishes Tehelka, even as he seeks to focus on his political career with the party led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.


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#Tehelkarapecase – Tarun Tejpal says Shoma pressured him to send apology , Really ? #Vaw


Tarun Tejpal tells SC Shoma pressured him to send apology mail to victim

Harish V. Nair   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, April 14, 2014 | UPDATED 09:18 IST
Tarun Tejpal, the 50-year-old founder editor of Tehelka, was arrested from Goa airport on November 30 and is lodged in jail since then.

The sexual harassment case against Tehelka founder editor Tarun Tejpal has taken a new twist with him telling the Supreme Court that his apology to the victim, being used as key evidence against him, was sent “on the terms of the victim” under pressure from Shoma Chaudhury, the then managing editor of the magazine, and the words used were not his.


Tejpal, who has already spent 130 days in jail, said he was shocked to hear from Chaudhury about the complaint on November 18, 2013, and had categorically refuted the allegations.

He has moved the Supreme Court for bail after his plea was dismissed by the Bombay High Court.

The victim, a junior woman colleague of the editor, and Goa Police are using Tejpal’s apology sent to the victim on November 19 last year as the primary proof. Both the trial court and high court described the apology as “formal” and “confessional in nature” while denying Tejpal bail.

In the apology, Tejpal had referred to the incident as “a bad lapse of judgment” and “an awful misreading of the situation”.

“The petitioner was shocked and categorically refuted each and every allegation. However, the managing editor refused to even listen to the petitioner’s version and overrode him. The managing editor stated in her statement that she was making all the decisions in Tehelka’s interest and on November 19 pressurised the petitioner to send an apology on the terms as was desired/dictated by the alleged victim,” Tejpal said in his 500-page bail application filed last week through advocate Sandeep Kapur of the noted law firm Karanjawala and Co.

The bail plea will come up for hearing in the apex court soon Tejpal contended that before sending the apology, he had written a personal communication to the victim, giving his version and pointing out the “falsity and concoction” in the allegations levelled against him by her.


Tejpal, who stepped down as editor of the weekly magazine after the incident occurred during the Thinkfest in Goa, has been accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague inside an elevator of a five star hotel on the night of November 7 last year.


Tejpal claimed that CCTV footage of him and the victim coming out of the lift clearly belied the contention of the victim. She claimed that Tejpal chased her out of the elevator when she managed to get out, and threatened her that consent would be the “easiest way for you to keep your job”.

But Tejpal’s bail petition claimed the CCTV footage clearly indicates the victim was running behind him after getting out of the lift and the “girl was happy and was not holding back tears”.

Tejpal pointed out what he said were “several contradictions, infirmities, embellishments and shocking exaggerations” in the statements of the victim and key witnesses Ishan Tankha, G Vishnu and Shaugat Das Gupta to whom she had allegedly confided in after the alleged incident. He claimed these proved he had “been framed”.

“The Bombay HC had unfortunately yielded to the prosecution’s exaggerations,” he said.

Tejpal also said it was wrong to keep him in continued custody as the chargesheet had been filed and he was not required for any interrogation. Questioning the High Court’s reliance on the prosecution’s statement that the trial would be completed in two months, Tejpal said it was bound to be prolonged as there were 152 prosecution witnesses and the chargesheet ran into more than 3,000 pages and the time frame announced by the prosecution too was over.

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#Tehelkacase – Tarun Tejpal’ s Press Statement and Reply from Kavita Krishnan #Vaw

Tarun J Tejpal

Tarun J Tejpal (Photo credit: Cmic Blog)

Tarun Tejpal‘s Press Statement

“If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been
unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation
investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant
attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while
filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or
handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV
footage of the incidentIn my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged,
“the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that
the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed”. I said this
at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the
footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what
had happened.

It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence
available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet.  In
fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting
for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the
sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.

I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police,
clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have
refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and
8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as
per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light
via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will
collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the
‘testimony’ of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa
police filed it’s FIR under draconian provisions.

As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being
‘held’ in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The
fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no
case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an
agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating
the principle of police neutrality.

I’m afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the
inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in
the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government
machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of
all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame
that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is
India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I
certainly am one.”

Response by Kavita Krishnan

It’s Tejpal who wants the public (through media) to try and declare him innocent, and for this pressure to prevail on the Court. And that’s why he is using media and social media liberally to sow suspicions about the complainant‘s politics and her character, her demeanor, her smile and so on. That’s why his friends send mails with her photos asking – “Check out her pose! Is she traumatised? No! Is she happy? Yes!” That’s why Tejpal says make the CCTV footage public: he wants the general public to be voyeurs, examining the woman, putting her smile, her demeanor, her gait, on trial, ready to declare her guilty if her manner, her gait, her demeanor dont conform to the 70s Hindi film stereotype of the raped woman jiski izzat lut gayi. 
We in the women’s movement can only hope that the Courts wont behave like the ‘court of public opinion.’ You see, if a woman is brutalised, her bloodied body/corpse available as incontestable proof of her victimhood – in conformity with those Hindi movie images we just talked about – then the Courts MIGHT hand out righteous death sentences because ‘public opinion’ so demanded. MIGHT – because here too for a Bhotmange or a Manorama or a Soni Sori, the brutalised body is no guarantee of public opinion or Courts perceiving the heinousness of the crime. In other cases – where the rape survivor doesn’t have a bloodied body to display to gratify the avid voyeurs, the ‘peanut-crunching crowd’ – the Courts are again all too likely to mirror public opinion and declare that the woman doesn’t really look or behave ‘raped’ enough. Even when the Courts appear to be ‘sensitive’ to women, there’s a catch. There is one landmark verdict of the SC which holds that rape convictions can take place even on the ‘sole testimony’ of the woman complainant. But the verdict actually says that “It is conceivable in the Western Society that a female may level false accusation as regards sexual molestation against a male” but “A girl or a woman in the tradition bound non-permissive Society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred” and therefore isnt likely to lie about rape! The detailed argument in this verdict is has sickeningly sexist imaginings of why ‘Western’ women are likely to lie about rape:
Not surprisingly, this notion of ‘chaste Indian woman’ vs ‘loose Westermised woman’ is what Tejpal’s defence is relying upon. In his bail plea, Tejpal’s lawyer quoted this verdict to argue that she could not be raped, the sex must be consensual because the complainant is “a “liberated, emancipated modern woman”.
So, women can only HOPE – against hope – that the Courts will stand aloof from public opinion, and will deliver justice on merits of the case rather than on jaundiced notions about how raped, tightly-bound Indian women are supposed to behave, as opposed to loose, liberated, modern women…
Tejpal claims there’s no evidence against him, that the chargesheet is flimsy. Now, we dont have to judge him guilty or innocent now. But the charges are by no means flimsy as he suggests. Rather, there’s an embarrassment of weighty facts – straight from Tejpal’s own words – enough to make this a very very serious case.
Tejpal claimed in his email to his friends that the whole thing was “an incredibly fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!).” Well, the chargesheet establishes based on the CCTV footage that the lift took much longer than the usual to make the 2-storey climb, certainly much longer than the ‘less than a minute’ claimed by Tejpal. This unwarranted time in the lift the first time and the footage of him taking her by the arm and pulling her into the lift on a second occasion (a second encounter which his email to friends didnt mention) is certainly grounds for invoking IPC 341 (Wrongfully restrain), 342 (wrong confinement).
Moreover, his own ‘apology’ email established him admitting to invoking his status as her boss – though he claims he retracted it. The very fact that he admits to invoking it to overcome what HE calls her ‘clear reluctance’, goes to show a strong basis for invoking 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust for authority over a women committees rape on such women) and 376(2) (k) (rape of a women by a person being in position of control or dominance over the women) IPC.
And the testimony of several of the complainant’s colleagues that she told them IMMEDIATELY after the first episode, that she was assaulted, and of course her own complaint that has remained stable and unchanged from minute 1 while Tejpal’s has mutated time and time again, are pretty strong ground for invoking Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354-A (outrage modesty). Mind you, I say these are undeniably strong grounds for the chargesheet: it isn’t for me to judge him guilty or not, I leave that to the Court.
Finally, Tejpal claims that his arrest is “an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.” Well, I know neither Mr. Tejpal nor the complainant personally. I know them both from their work as journalists and public intellectuals.

And I can say: Mr Tejpal, you dont have to be male and a senior editor to be a ‘dissenter and critic’ against communal politics. The complainant – a young journalist who has done courageous and forthright journalism – is no less a dissenter and a critic. And we who stand up for her rights, are no less dissenters and critics.

And Mr Tejpal trivialises the anti-fascist struggle by trying to use it to demand impunity from accusations of rape. Being a dissenter and a critic doesnt provide us with some kind of AFSPA-type shield to being prosecuted for rape.
Finally, can we please keep the word ‘draconian’ confined to the laws like AFSPA, MCOCA, sedition and so-forth? The new rape law is NOT draconian. It very correctly expands the definition for rape & provides graded punishments for different situations of sexual violence; and it very correctly states that consent cant be presumed without a clear YES by word or gesture by the woman. These are not draconian provisions. Ten years for the compound crimes Tejpal is accused of is not excessive necessarily. It should jolt us that Tejpal’s friend can refer to what he is accused of as a ‘mere pass’. Sorry guys. Even a ‘pass’ is now sexual harassment. And holding a woman against her will in a closed space, disrobing her and forcing your finger or tongue inside her private parts simply isnt a ‘pass’ – and it’s downright scary that some can think of it as such. The same pal of Tejpal’s said, chillingly, that if this is rape 50% of editors and CEOs will be in jail for rape. Do editors and CEOs (Tejpal’s pal seems to think these are all male) really see it as their entitlement to do these things to their woman employees?! If so, it reminds me of the sense of entitlement that Bihar landlords used to expect as their due from dalit woman workers in fields in the 1980s. Those bosses who think women have to submit to such treatment must indeed be in jail.
I am willing to discuss, in a general context, the need to retain some discretion for the judge in sentencing – but I’ll do so in a context of concern for justice for women, so that Courts should not be deterred from convictions, and discretion should not move from the judges to the cops. And I’ll discuss these when we have some evidence of the fact that the new law is indeed acting against women’s interests in this regard. To use those concerns and debates of the women’s movement to paint Tejpal as a victim is abhorrent.
And to those who accuse feminists of defending a draconian law to play ‘media darlings’: let’s recall that the women’s movement has consistently – on the same media – articulated and defended the UNPOPULAR positions against draconian provisions of death penalty and lowering of the age of juvenility and raising of age of consent. We have interrupted the media’s self-congratulatory narratives on Tejpal or Asaram to remind them of their own double standards on Manorama, Kunan Poshpora, Soni Sori, countless Bastar rapes, rapes of dalit women in Haryana and so on. The same activists who make use of a few minutes in the media to counter the insidious campaign of vilification that Tejpal & his pals are carrying out against the complainant, have also spoken – again in the face of abuse and hate-speech – against the hanging of Afzal Guru and the conviction of Shehzad in the Batla House case. I am one of the handful of people who have, after carefully examining available evidence rather than the feverish imaginings of a sexist media campaign, questioned the obnoxious, appalling Aarushi verdict, which was a ‘media trial’ if ever there was one. A secular friend who today accuses me of participating in media trials in the case of ‘secular’ rape-accused men, was only too happy to repeat the prejudiced misinformation peddled by a media in the Aarushi case, warning me to stick with public opinion rather than my own assessment and conscience in that case! I have also spoken AGAINST ‘potency tests’ for Asaram and Tejpal both – I hold potency tests to be just as demeaning, unscientific and humiliating as 2-finger tests for rape survivors.
What about bail for Tejpal? I believe bail is a right that all undertrials are entitled to – and I along with many others have thanklessly struggled for bail for NOIDA workers, Maruti workers, held on far far flimsier grounds. Soni Sori got bail after years of incarceration. Many of my own comrades languish in jail without bail – on cooked up charges relating to mass movements led by them. In the case of those accused of heinous crimes, Courts tend to deny bail irrespective of how flimsy the charges are – and this is nothing to do with the new rape law, it has been the case for lonf before last year. So, Tejpal cant claim he’s being denied bail because of a political vendetta or because of a ‘draconian’ law. Rather, if at all he gets bail, it will be because he has a posse of lawyers and he is viewed as ‘respectable’ and ‘respected’ – unlike your average worker or slum dweller or common man/woman accused. And if he gets bail, I would not oppose it.
So no. These very phrases ‘media darlings’, ‘BBM-ing feminists’ and so on are themselves redolent of rank sexism. We do the cause of democracy and secularism a grave injustice by resorting to this manner of campaign. Tejpal is entitled to a defence, surely. But we cannot allow the complainant to be subjected to a moralistic, voyeuristic pillory on the pretext of his defence. She is being put through hell, has had her mindspace and professional world turn from a zone of comfort and achievement into an ugly space of abuse and jeers – not because of her own actions but just because she made the hard decision to complain about rape by her boss. This is the tough, painful world of rape survivors. For those of us who ask why we activists cant remain ‘neutral’ – well, survivors and complainants get through this hell because they rely on the women’s movement to support them through it. So, yes, we are not going to stop supporting rape complainants because the accused happens on occasion to be part of the secular or democratic camp. That’s because democracy includes women’s rights.


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Tehelka sexual assault case: Tarun Tejpal’s bail plea rejected #Vaw


Jan 15, 2014 at 05:54pm IST

Panaji: The Goa session court has rejected a bail plea filed by Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal in the sexual assault case against him.

Tejpal has spent a month and a half cumulatively in police and judicial custody.

He has been accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a junior colleague in a Goa resort, during ThinkFest, a high-profile conference organised by Tejpal and his team at a Goa resort.

Tehelka sexual assault case: Tarun Tejpal's bail plea rejected

Tejpal is currently lodged at the Sada sub-jail in the port town of Vasco, 35 km from here, as prisoner number 624.

Tejpal is currently lodged at the Sada sub-jail in the port town of Vasco, 35 km from here, as prisoner number 624.

Tejpal, known for path-breaking investigative stories, was booked November 22, 2013, after a junior colleague accused him of sexual assault in an elevator of a five-star resort in Goa.



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#India – Tejpal case obscures the reality of unequal newsroom #Vaw

Burying The Lede

By POORNIMA JOSHI | 1 January 2014
Indian media organisations lack clear procedures for addressing complaints of sexual harassment.
 208 304

THE RELENTLESS MEDIA COVERAGE of the former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal’s alleged assault on his much younger colleague in a hotel elevator simultaneously exposes as well as eclipses the complex lived experiences of women in the media. The news reports, opinion pieces and tangential investigations that the editor’s “lapse of judgement” and subsequent rape charge unleashed have been utterly demoralising.

This is particularly true for those who have worked for Tehelka, believed in journalism as a public service and remember collecting money to bring out a “People’s Paper”, which is how Tejpal sold the enterprise to many of us. In the days that he and the very promising Tehelka were being targeted by the BJP-led NDA government for exposing corruption in defence deals in 2001, it was inconceivable that Tejpal would one day resemble some of the creeps that we encountered or heard about in the newsrooms.

The Tehelka I worked in was different. Some friends who joined at the beginning took salary cuts to support an idealistic journalistic venture. They worked tirelessly to cover stories that no one bothered about: I still remember their exhaustive focus on the hair-raising July 2004 protest—by women in Manipur who disrobed and dared the men of the Assam Rifles to “rape us too”—against the custodial rape and murder of a woman named Thangjam Manorama. The men and women at Tehelka even spent nights in the office, spreading newspapers on the floor for short naps between tight deadlines.

The reality of Tejpal’s personal ambitions is quite mundane, but somehow uglier because it was airbrushed with virtue. If Tehelka looks like the caricature of a boys-club newsroom now, perhaps it is because we expected too much. After all, stories about predatory editors who hounded young interns, and not-so-predatory ones who enticed younger colleagues, promising promotions or postings abroad, were common enough in our field. A lot of these lechers are still editing mainstream newspapers. The forever irreverent Vinod Mehta referred to some of them in his Outlook column, ‘Delhi Diary’, early last month: “The abuse of power in the media, especially in the higher echelons, is rampant. Editors sexually exploit and harass trainees and junior staff with a crudity which is unbelievably cynical. The threat is always the same: if the girl ‘cooperates’, she not only keeps her job but enjoys rapid promotion. If she doesn’t, she is shown the door. It is the worst kept secret in our profession but it dare not speak its name.”

The only exceptional part of the Tehelka saga is that the young woman allegedly molested by Tejpal actually complained to her superiors. As Vinod Mehta pointed out, editors assaulting young journalists is commonplace enough. But what may have escaped attention in the media frenzy that followed her complaint is that the young woman no longer has a job. Her courage is remarkable because, for many women journalists, speaking up against a superior means losing work and facing the prospect of being considered unemployable in the future in the ruthless world of media organisations. The usual silence surrounding sexual harassment is as much for the routine reasons of guilt, shame, preserving personal space and dignity, and the desire not to be objectified, as it is for the fear of being left out in the merciless workplace.

A former colleague underwent precisely this experience in the early 2000s, when she complained against her boss in what was then the biggest newspaper in Delhi. She lost her job and never worked in a newsroom again. In the cut-throat media world, complaining is synonymous with weakness, and none of us can ever afford to be seen as weak. So, from creepy managers and heads of editorial departments to wages that are routinely lower than those of our male colleagues; from a lack of standardised, enforced maternity benefits or childcare to job segregation into “hard” and “soft” beats; not to mention downright sexism; a woman journalist learns to live with the newsroom reality very early on. And women who do go on to senior positions find that they have to work harder to constantly prove themselves to both the staff they manage and to those who control the purse strings.

Much of the evidence of this remains anecdotal because there is a scarcity of in-depth research into gender and the media. In 2009, the Global Media Monitoring Project conducted a cursory one-day survey of stories produced by 36 Indian newsrooms. The study, coordinated by the Network of Women in Media India, found that women reported only 34 percent of news stories in the print media and 43 percent of stories on television. (Incidentally, only 22 percent of the stories were about women, and 82 percent of all expert commentators or sources were men.) A 2011 study by the International Women’s Media Foundation found that women made up 18.6 percent of 17 Indian newsrooms surveyed, and that their salaries were generally lower than men’s, particularly in senior positions. Women only made up 13.8 percent of upper management—the category that included publishers and chief executive officers.

The Press Institute of India conducted a near-national survey in 2004, the Status of Women Journalists in the Print Media. Here, too, the evidence is largely anecdotal—the survey noted that only 11.5 percent of the roughly 3,500 women approached even responded to the questionnaire—but it is nevertheless compelling. One respondent asserted: “Women journalists are often overworked, underpaid and have very little access to equal employment. In fact, a large number of organisations often deny women promotions on the flimsy excuse that they cannot do night duty. Childcare, flexi-hours, a more sensitive approach to the limitations she faces when she is in the child-rearing phase can do wonders for both the organisation and the women employees.”

The insecurities have only been magnified in recent years owing to regular job cuts and mass retrenchments. In December 2011, the editor of Mail Today, a newspaper launched by the India Today group in collaboration with the UK’s Daily Mail, resigned because he would not sack journalists he had cajoled into joining the newspaper when it was launched in late 2007. In the subsequent year, at least 13 senior journalists either resigned or were sacked from the political bureau in Mail Today. The situation was similar in the paper’s other departments. This was part of a “convergence” plan, which chiefly entailed the arbitrary sacking of journalists on a large scale. These events preceded the August 2013 bloodbath at the television channels CNN-IBN and IBN7, in which approximately 300 producers, cameramen and reporters were laid off. A few weeks earlier, in July, the Outlook Group had decided to stop production of the local editions of its international franchise magazines—a move that led to an estimated 120 people losing their jobs.

Given this larger reality of a squeezed industry, in which the bulk of decision-making power rests with men, the virtuous, round-the-clock commentary on one woman journalist’s traumatic experience has been distortive, if not downright misrepresentative. As is inevitable in the coverage of cases of sexual violence, some of the commentary has been what can only be called pathologically sexist. Many of the commentators (again, largely male experts) have given little serious thought to, much less acted on, creating an equitable work space by curbing excruciatingly long work hours, professionalising the newsroom, and addressing issues of job security, safety, maternity benefits, childcare, or everyday sexism. These are only some of the issues that concern the professional lives of women—as well as men—in the unorganised, highly informal workplace that is the news media.

When such insecurities plague journalists on a day-to-day basis, the new legal regime of harsh punishments and stricter sentences that followed the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in the wake of the 16 December Delhi rape will only serve to complicate issues further. How do we retain our jobs and progress in the profession while demanding redress against editors who might pounce on us in elevators? It is not yet clear whether the severity of the charges Tejpal is facing, and the related harshness of punishment, will eventually help empower other women to speak up about harassment and discrimination in the newsroom. The hypocrisy in the self-righteous rage of the commentators in Tejpal’s case is stunning because a majority of them have done nothing to encourage women to step forward against molesters in their own offices. I know that at least one of the more eloquent commentators refused to act against a news editor harassing a younger colleague until some of us gathered in his office and basically forced him to confront the offender.

The cultural norms that govern sexual behaviour still arrest our understanding of what precisely constitutes a crime. Between consent and sexual violence, the law alone cannot define what is injurious and reprehensible, and the best mode of redress for human behaviour does not always fall within existing legal frameworks. From the tired Bollywood trope of “na mein haan” (“no means yes”) to the master of all jurists, Glanville Williams, quoting Lord Byron’s ‘Don Juan’ in the otherwise illuminating 1983 edition of his Textbook of Criminal Law (“A little still she strove, and much repented, and whispering ‘I will ne’er consent’—consented”), sexual behaviour and criminality is a slippery slope. As many lawyers and activists have noted in the ongoing discussion surrounding sexual violence, stringent laws mostly result in less reporting, fewer convictions and a majority of real culprits getting let off the hook.

This cannot be an acceptable scenario when sexual violence and harassment is more routine than most people imagine. The relevant question here is: in how many media houses that have celebrated Tejpal’s arrest and subsequent incarceration do internal mechanisms such as an anti-sexual harassment committee exist? “Not many,” media analyst Sevanti Ninan told me, although again, the evidence is mostly anecdotal. According to Ninan, the “unprofessional and informalised” nature of media organisations makes it difficult to create even legally mandated redressal structures. Moreover, there is no agency through which employees can collectively bargain for such provisions if the organisations refuse to create them. Activists like Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and a member of the politburo of the CPI(ML)(Liberation), believe that the new legal regime, especially the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, which mandates that any organisation with ten or more employees form a committee to address complaints of harassment, will create the necessary pressure for the creation of these structures.

Media organisations, including our own, are now scrambling to set up these committees. But for better or worse, the question of serving the public good often looms larger in the newsroom than issues surrounding the hiring, firing and working conditions of employees—an emphasis that often shuts out the very voices, already marginalised, that would enrich our reporting. By putting our faith in Tejpal, we allowed the promise of personal liability to trump institutional safeguards. This tendency to privilege personality over rule-bound equity isn’t likely to disappear soon in a media world that is driven as much by ego as it is by idealism, and which is vulnerable to the creeping in of sexist social mores in the absence of a professional work culture that actively empowers women. While Vinod Mehta may have announced the arrival on the scene of the “new woman” in his Outlook column last month, for most women journalists battling routine problems on account of their gender, celebrations are not in order yet.

Poornima Joshi is a s

– See more at:

  • #India – Tehelka Journalist says she was ‘ Legally Raped ” #Vaw (
  • #India – Tehelka never adhered to media ethics (


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#Tehelkacase- Tarun Tejpal’s judicial remand extended by 10 days #Vaw

Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal’s judicial remand was Saturday extended by a further 10 days by a magistrate here

Tejpal, who has spent more than a month cumulatively in police and judicial custody, was presented before a court of a judicial magistrate.

Tarun Tejpal
Tarun Tejpal

His defence argued that Tejpal should be released on bail because police had not shown any interest in questioning him during his tenure in judicial lock-up.

The prosecution, however, claimed that Tejpal should be in custody until the entire investigation is completed.

Tejpal, arrested Nov 30, has now spent Christmas as well as the New Year as prisoner number 624 at the Sada sub jail in the port town of Vasco, around 35 km from here.

He was arrested Nov 30 after a junior colleague accused him of sexual assault during Thinkfest, a conference organised by Tejpal and his team at a Goa resort.

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#India – Beyond Tehelka , Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhury #Vaw



Tehelka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tehelka debacle may yet serve a constructive purpose if it catalyses action within the media towards establishing in-house mechanisms as mandated by the law. By AMMU JOSEPH in Frontline

IF Tehelka had been more conscientious about observing the law of the land, Shoma Chaudhury would likely still be managing editor of the feisty news magazine. Instead, the award-winning journalist faced severe, sustained and widespread criticism over her handling of a young colleague’s shocking complaint of sexual harassment, assault and more by the magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief, Tarun Tejpal, and eventually resigned 10 days into the crisis.

Shoma Chaudhury’s resignation letter referred to questions about her integrity raised by people both within and outside the profession, and expressed regret for any inadequacies or lack of clarity she may have displayed as a leader. In her response to the young journalist’s resignation from the magazine, she admitted that “in the absence of an existing official grievance redressal mechanism in office, along Vishaka guidelines”, her “responses may not have reflected the correct formal procedures”.

If an internal policy and mechanism had been in place and their existence made known to all employees, as required by the law, Shoma Chaudhury may not have been in the hot seat as the individual to whom the complaint was made and from whom appropriate action was expected. The young woman would probably have reported her traumatic experience to the mandated in-house complaints committee, which would then have taken a considered, collective decision about action to be taken in accordance with the law. Instead, Shoma Chaudhury seems to have acted on her own, evidently improvising as she went along and facing increasing flak for her inadequate and flawed response, which was also legally questionable. Under fierce attack from most quarters, her only defence appeared to be that her actions—and, presumably, inaction—were based on outrage, solidarity, feminist principles, et al, when they should instead —or in addition—have been informed by the law.

The point is that while the existing laws relating to sexual harassment in the workplace (SHW) reflect the awareness and understanding of the issue fostered by feminist analysis and activism over many years, their application is not dependent on individual beliefs and value systems. Feminists and non-feminists alike have an obligation to abide by them.

Rights of workers

Freedom from sexual harassment is a vital aspect of women’s right to a safe work environment. However, it is important to recognise that SHW is not exclusively a “women’s issue”. It is a labour issue that involves the rights of all workers/employees. And it is an issue closely connected to freedom of expression in general and the freedom of the media in particular. It is widely accepted that the safety and security of journalists are essential prerequisites for press freedom. Sexual harassment, besides violating women’s rights, threatens the safety and security of a growing number of journalists who happen to be women and, thereby, threatens press freedom. There was a time when managements did not have the benefit of legislation spelling out what constitutes SHW and what employers are supposed to do about such behaviour, especially but not only on the rare occasions when it is brought to their attention. However, that age of innocence—or impunity—came to an end 16 years ago, when the Supreme Court of India crafted what became widely known as the Vishaka guidelines.

The 1997 guidelines were in operation until recently because the government had not yet notified the necessary rules under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was passed by Parliament earlier this year and received the President’s assent in April (the rules were finally notified on December 9). Both laws firmly place on employers the onus for preventing and deterring SHW, as well as for taking all the necessary steps to thoroughly investigate and effectively deal with complaints about such torment, including prosecution when it is called for under the law. The Act actually lists 10 different and wide-ranging “duties of the employer”. Policies and mechanisms to tackle workplace sexual harassment are supposed to be in place even if no complaints have ever been made and none is anticipated. That they were “sorely missing in Tehelka”, as Shoma Chaudhury put it, is particularly surprising since, by all accounts, several instances of such harassment had been brought to the attention of the magazine’s management over the years. Shoma Chaudhury’s post facto, apparently unsuccessful, efforts to recruit a range of prominent citizens for an in-house inquiry committee proved to be excessive flourishes that merely caused avoidable controversy and embarrassment.

While the Vishaka guidelines mandate a complaints committee headed by a woman, with women constituting at least half the membership and an external person or institution familiar with the issue being among the members, the new Act stipulates that the presiding officer of the standing committee must be a senior woman employee of the organisation and committee members must include at least two representatives of the organisation’s employees and one external person, all preferably known for commitment to women’s rights and/or relevant experience and knowledge.


As Ayesha Kidwai of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who serves on an internal complaints committee at the university, pointed out in a recent article on the Tehelka case, such committees can serve multiple purposes and should not be seen as “a redressal mechanism that is ‘alternative’ to the law”. According to her, besides conducting internal inquiries into cases brought to its attention, a genuine complaints committee with due representation of all employees can play an important role in providing the kind of legal advice, counselling, and institutional support that every complainant needs if she decides to pursue a criminal complaint, facilitating, mediating and supporting her engagement with the criminal justice system. At the same time, it can initiate a parallel investigation into the complainant’s charges to look into the possibility of other instances of SHW within the organisation—by the accused in that particular case and/or others—and take appropriate action as required. This is particularly important since several reported cases have revealed men accused of SHW to be serial offenders who have obviously grown bolder each time they have got away with such abuse.

A newspaper headline on November 22 asked, “Question is, why did Tehelka not take Vishaka on board?” The report goes on to state that “most leading media organisations in the country have such anti-sexual harassment committees”. However, it listed only six news organisations with policies relating to sexual harassment reportedly in place. This is in a country which boasts more than 86,000 registered newspapers and over 800 permitted private television channels, not to mention an ever-growing number of magazines, private radio stations and online media, besides the state/public broadcasters, Doordarshan and All India Radio. And where interviews with women journalists across the country in the late 1990s for the book Making News: Women in Journalism revealed the prevalence of SHW even in the 1970s and 1980s. Of the 17 Indian news companies surveyed for the 2011 Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media—located in four cities and representing both English and Indian language media—88 per cent claimed to have adopted specific policies on gender equality and 82 per cent to have instituted policies relating to SHW.

In the absence of corroboration, however, these assertions can only be accepted with some reservation. Surveys among women journalists conducted in the early 2000s, several years after the Vishaka guidelines came into force, revealed that sexual harassment was a reality experienced by a significant number of women in the profession and that, despite this, few media houses had taken effective steps to deal with the problem in a convincing manner. Each case of sexual harassment in a media workplace that has come to light over the past decade—in different sectors of media located in different parts of the country—has exposed the persistent failure of many media houses to implement the law: few, if any, of the organisations involved had the necessary policies and mechanisms in place.     One of these was the 2003 case of Sabita Lahkar.

On November 22, Sabita wrote to the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, referring to the extensive media coverage given to the Tehelka case and seeking to call attention to her plight a decade after she complained about sexual and professional harassment by the then editor ofAmar Asom, a popular Assamese daily newspaper. According to her, even though the management did set up a “redressal committee” on the direction of the Assam Human Rights Commission and it recorded her grievances, the editor was never asked to appear before the committee. The police, too, did not dare to summon him for interrogation and failed to conduct a proper investigation. As a result, justice has eluded her.

One of the few instances so far in which a complainant has received some relief was in the labour suit filed by Rina Mukherji against the management of The Statesman, Kolkata. In February 2013, the Industrial Tribunal decided in her favour and ordered her reinstatement with full payment of back wages from October 2002, when her services as a senior reporter were terminated after she protested against sexual harassment by the then news coordinator of the newspaper. Although she was unable to get justice in the sexual harassment case, thanks to her perseverance the newspaper was compelled to institutionalise internal complaints and redress mechanisms, including a complaints committee.

There is some indication that the widespread outrage and debate generated by the infamous December 2012 gang rape in Delhi have led to more public awareness of gender, especially sexual, violence. The imminent enforcement of the SHW Act also seems to have served as a wake-up call spurring some action towards ensuring compliance. However, the experience of a non-governmental organisation working in the area of gender violence, which invited media establishments in its home city for a confidential training workshop on the new Act and its implementation last summer, suggests that quite a few have yet to recognise the seriousness of the situation and the need to set their houses in order before any “unfortunate”, “untoward” incidents take place on their watch. In April, even before the Act had received the President’s assent, the All India Organisation of Employers organised a workshop on procedural compliance with the SHW legislation, in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and supported by the International Labour Organisation.

The letter of invitation says, “The legislation places a number of obligations on the part of an enterprise or any work place, to set in place an elaborate mechanism for preventing and investigating cases of sexual harassment through the constitution of internal complaints committees, provides for punishment and deals with issues of gender sensitisation at the workplace to create a healthy working environment… the issue is highly sensitive and needs handling with due knowledge and information to avoid any violation or penal provision.”

Perhaps media companies and their umbrella organisations will now follow suit. The Tehelka debacle may yet serve a constructive purpose if it catalyses action within the media towards establishing in-house mechanisms as mandated by the law. On November 27, the Press Council of India called upon all media organisations to set up internal committees to prevent and redress cases of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. On November 28, the management of The Hindu announced the approval of a sexual harassment policy to be adopted and implemented throughout the organisation from December 1 and the initiation of a process for setting up internal complaints committees for all the company’s offices across the country.

These are certainly positive signs, as is the recent constitution of a 10-member Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee in the Supreme Court, chaired by a female judge, to receive and decide complaints against sexual harassment within that exalted workplace. This belated development, too, was obviously triggered by the recent complaint of sexual harassment levelled by a young law intern against a senior judge of the apex court, which additionally served to highlight the fact that the court had failed to implement its own guidelines issued 16 years ago.

A few media organisations have distinguished themselves by having SHW policies and mechanisms in place long before the issue became the stuff of front page headlines and prime-time television debates. Perhaps they can and should now play a more active role in sharing their experiences and observations, and setting a more visible example so as to encourage more of their peers to do the right thing. Perhaps they can form the nucleus of a new, expanding media roll of honour. Ammu Joseph is an independent journalist and author based in Bangalore, writing primarily on issues relating to gender, human development and the media. She is the author of Making News: Women in Journalism. (The article was updated on December 11.)


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#Tehelkacase – Members of the Cozy Club be warned



Nov 25, 2013, Asian Age

Over three years ago, a well-known name in Indian publishing left his prestigious job in Canada and returned home. His company put out a release stating that he had been asked to leave because of grave charges of sexual harassment against him. The case made headlines in India.
But then something interesting happened. His friends and erstwhile colleagues came out in the open, declaring how he had been a fine professional and had shown no signs, at least to their knowledge, of indulging in this kind of behavior. Many of those who stood up in his defence were women, liberal women, the kind who would not tolerate sexual misconduct in the workplace. The matter remained in the news for a few days and the professional emerged a little while later with a new venture which has taken off quite well. The whole issue is now forgotten.
Compare that with the raucous attention the latest imbroglio involving Tarun Tejpal and a young staffer is receiving. Not just the social media but even mainstream newspapers and television (to say nothing of sundry politicians) have gone into an overdrive, demanding that Tejpal pay for his misconduct. The details of misconduct are not that dissimilar — in the first case too the “victim” was a junior staffer and there were allegations of outright assault during a visit away from the office. Yet, that matter faded away without much permanent damage to reputations while this one has exploded into a major scandal. What has changed?
The first case took place in a far away country and details did not come out in the public domain in real time. We did not know who the woman was, could not put a face to her. On the other hand, the accused had a reputation here and also influential and vocal friends. Second, the hyperactive (and hyperventilating) social media was not so widely used at the time. Twitter and Facebook have spread and escalated the latest scandal and raised the pitch so loud that no one can possibly ignore it. In that sense, social media is the new village square — everyone has an opinion and is determined to air it. This mob cacophony then becomes “the public mood” and no one dare ignore it.

Tarun J Tejpal and his translator

Tarun J Tejpal and his translator (Photo credit: Cmic Blog)

Most of all, even three years ago India was a different place — such matters were to be ignored and handled quietly, away from the public gaze. There was an implicit compact among those in the “inner circle” that such indiscretions did happen and were usually a case of poor judgment. Perfectly good careers were not destroyed or well-built reputations torn apart over an indiscretion. The errant perpetrators had to be rescued and shortly after rehabilitated. There are cases in Mumbai and Delhi (and no doubt elsewhere) of serial sexual offenders and even drug peddlers who have smoothly moved back into social circles once the furore has died down. The elite simply circles the wagons and protects their own. That was always how things worked.
This time round, the media broke its own unwritten rule — “never to go after a journalist”. If anything, the questioning of Shoma Chaudhury by those same TV anchors who used to have her on their show as an intellectual, liberal voice, admiring her for her deft use of the language, have been aggressive. From being one of us, she has now become one of them, no different from the hated politician who has to bear the brunt of nightly no-holds-barred interrogation. For long-time observers of the media scene, this is a radical departure from convention.
Once the scandal made it to newsrooms, the mainstream media would have quickly realised that it would be subject to severe criticism if it tiptoed around the scandal. Sensitivity to sexual harassment has increased manifold — it is a hot button issue now and instances of powerful men trying to push themselves onto young women are getting a lot of publicity. The leak of the shocking emails had created such a storm that there was no way newspapers and television channels could remain indifferent to the disgust that was being expressed on social media. Twitter and Facebook are used mainly by the same classes that watch the TV news and read newspapers — journalists therefore have to be attuned to what their consumers are thinking. Worse cases than this that have taken place in rural areas or small towns and have gone unnoticed. Caught in the dilemma of turning against one of their own tribe and going after
the story full on, the media chose the latter route.
Once the publicity blitz began, there were other consequences — a proposal to install Tejpal on the Prasar Bharati board was dropped hastily, sponsors of the famous ThinkFest who were thrilled to be part of it are now reconsidering their decision and old friends are coming out of the woodwork remembering their days with Tejpal and ruing what became of a good professional. His good work, such as it may be, does not matter — words like arrogant, power-drunk and womaniser are now being bandied about. The cozy consensus of the power elites has collapsed.
This is a watershed moment. From now on, those who feel cocooned in the comfort of their PLU world, easily flitting between the rich and the powerful, dropping a name here, offering a quip there, picking up a lucrative contract on the side, will have to start worrying — when the chips fall, that same world will turn on you. Gone are the days when an indiscretion, howsoever serious, was quickly forgiven and forgotten. The club does not want anyone who will be an inconvenience; all doors will slam shut rapidly. Gone also are the times when the prodigal was welcomed home with a fatted calf. If anything, the herd will turn on this weak member because it is a liability — that’s the law of the jungle.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]


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