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‘Very strong’ defence of Tejpal

CAN SHE DECIDE WHETHER TO GO TO POLICE OR NOT?

New Delhi, Nov. 22: Tarun Tejpal has the right to very, very strong defence, Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury said today.

Chaudhury faced up for her first full-fledged interviews after the charges against Tejpal exploded into the public domain, but her answers pointed to a sense of anger not against the proprietor-editor accused of sexual assault by a young colleague but against those questioning him.

“I’m amazed that people are accusing him of rape when there’s only one version out,” Chaudhury told a television channel, suggesting she had as much faith in Tejpal’s version as in the woman’s detailed account of how a man she worshipped as a father figure twice sexually attacked her in a hotel elevator despite her protests.

“I am appalled that the media has jumped to conclusions based on leaks,” she told another channel, referring to email communication between the woman, Chaudhury and Tejpal.

The alleged assaults — twice in two days — took place in a hotel elevator in Goa where the magazine was hosting a literary conclave earlier this month. The woman journalist formally complained in an email, excerpts of which were published in The Telegraph today, to Chaudhury earlier this week.

Tejpal, Chaudhury said, had “unconditionally apologised” to the victim, and an email he wrote to his second-in-command carries an admission of a “lapse of judgment”.

Today, however, Chaudhury claimed Tejpal had an alternative version of events — effectively claiming the alleged sexual assault was actually a “consensual” act — which she “overrode” in making her boss submit an apology but which she said was equally legitimate.

“I do believe he has a right to speak up very, very strongly in his defence,” Chaudhury told one channel.

What was wrong in Tejpal’s email and her own email to colleagues was the “tone”, she said.

Chaudhury said she would not complain against Tejpal to the police. “That,” she said, “is the girl’s prerogative.”

But if the woman does go to the police, Chaudhury would not back her version any more.

“She (the woman journalist) as the aggrieved party had wanted an institutional response,” Chaudhury said. “But if it is going into a legal domain, then it has to be investigated.”

Tehelka and Tejpal, Chaudhury suggested, were victims of wild media frenzy. “You are now speculating and jumping to conclusions that it was rape.”

Asked if she felt a sense of betrayal after reading about Tejpal’s alleged assault on the woman, Chaudhury said she felt “a sense of betrayal, outrage, but on very different accounts”, suggesting she was disturbed more by the email leaks.