Panaji, Feb 17 IANS | 10 months ago

Capping a two-and-half-month-long investigation, the Goa crime branch Monday formally charged Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal with raping a junior colleague.

Tejpal was also charged with sexual harassment and other sections of the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, in the 2,846-page charge sheet.

The charge sheet filed with District and Sessions Judge Anuja Prabhudessai contains statements of over 150 witnesses and over 1,400 pages of annexure documents.

The documents include sketches, hotel bill receipts, authenticated copies of email conversations, copies of CCTV grabs and the complaint recorded before a magistrate.

Police sources said a bunch of emails written by Tejpal to the woman journalist and to Tehelka's former managing editor Shoma Chaudhury virtually confirming a sexual encounter was a key evidence mentioned in the charge sheet.

"The last days have been most testing and I squarely take the blame for this. A bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for," is a passage from an email from Tejpal that was quoted in the charge sheet.

After the charge sheet was filed by Inspector Sunita Sawant, Deputy Inspector General O.P. Mishra told reporters that the case was water-tight and that he was hopeful that the trial would be completed within 60 days as per provisions of the amended law after the Dec 16, 2012, gang rape.

"The special public prosecutor will also request the trial judge to conduct the hearing on a day-to-day basis. Under amended section 309 (i) of the Indian Penal Code, the trial has to be completed in 60 days," Mishra said.

Mishra also said that before being arrested Nov 30, Tejpal had led investigators on a hunt across India, with Goa Police teams having to fan out across Mumbai, Delhi, Noida, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Tejpal has been charged under various charges, including sexual harassment, wrongful restraint, taking advantage of official position, and rape.

The junior woman colleague accused Tejpal of raping her during a high profile conference organised by the Tehelka founder in Goa.

Tejpal, who had initially evaded arrest, was subsequently arrested Nov 30 in full media glare.

Mishra also said that attempts made to get Hollywood actor Robert de Niro's statement proved futile.

"We have established contact with his attorney, who has been talking to us. Since he has been travelling, he has not been able to reply (to a police questionnaire) as of now. But there is enough evidence to establish that he (de Niro) was at the hotel when the incident happened," he said.

The woman journalist was in-charge of chaperoning the Hollywood actor, who was one of the star guests at the conference.

In her complaint to police, the woman said Tejpal used the ruse of visiting de Niro's suite to sexually assault her Nov 7 and 8 in the elevator of a five-star hotel that was hosting the event.

(Posted on 17-02-2014)

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