NEW DELHI — The police in Indian state Goa charged Tarun J. Tejpal, a journalist and magazine editor, with raping and sexually assaulting a female staff reporter during a November encounter in a hotel elevator, PakistanTribe.com (PT) reported.
According to the PT’s correspondent the case sent tremors through journalistic circles in India, where Mr. Tejpal, who has edited the magazine Tehelka, is known as a crusader for liberal causes and enjoys celebrity status.
“It also came after a year of intense scrutiny on the problem of sexual violence, and it will be among one of the first prosecutions under a set of tough, newly amended laws passed during a season of public outrage” Indian and International media reported.
Investigators in the case filed a 12-volume, 2,846-page charge sheet, which included testimony from 152 witnesses. Mr. Tejpal was charged with “outraging the modesty of a woman,” sexual harassment, wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, rape, rape by a person in a position of trust or authority, and rape by a person in a position of control or dominance. If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of more than seven years.
O. P. Mishra, the deputy inspector general of police, said prosecutors would move for the trial to be completed within 60 days, an unusually speedy process by Indian standards, and another provision added when the criminal code was amended last year.
Mr. Tejpal has been in custody since Nov. 30. Raian Karanjawala, a lawyer representing Mr. Tejpal, said he had not yet reviewed the charge sheet and could not comment.
The young woman, whose identity has not been revealed, in accordance with Indian law, said Mr. Tejpal had assaulted her twice in the elevator on the sidelines of ThinkFest, an annual event sponsored by the magazine.
Mr. Tejpal initially wrote her an apologetic letter describing “a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation,” which was leaked to the news media. He later said that he had apologized at a colleague’s insistence, “as desired by the journalist,” but that the encounter had been consensual and he had done nothing wrong.
Evidence in the case includes the apology, as well as lengthy written exchanges and text messages between Mr. Tejpal and the woman and conversations the woman had with colleagues shortly after one encounter. The charge sheet details footage from security cameras outside the hotel elevator, and states that there is sufficient evidence to show that Mr. Tejpal “has been evading police after commission of crime.”
“It can be concluded that the victim of sexual assault in the present case is a young woman journalist who was raped, sexually harassed and her modesty outraged by Tarun Tejpal,” the document continues. “This incident has caused serious psychological injury to the dignity, self-esteem and overall personality of victim young woman journalist who has made a mark for herself in the field of journalism.”
Investigators have also sought information from the actor Robert DeNiro, who attended the event and socialized with both Mr. Tejpal and the journalist throughout the weekend, but have not yet succeeded in questioning him. Sunita Sawant, an investigating officer, said she had been told that he was traveling.
“We are in touch with him over email,” she said. “He is somewhere in California.”