India ex-editor Tarun Tejpal charged with rape

Indian magazine editor, Tarun Tejpal, is escorted by police officials from a courthouse after being remanded in police custody in Panaji on December 1, 2013 Mr Tejpal (left) has denied all the charges

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The former editor of a prominent news magazine in India has been charged with the rape of a female colleague.

Tarun Tejpal has also been charged with "sexual harassment" and "outraging the modesty of a woman", Press Trust of India reports.

Mr Tejpal, former editor of Tehelka, has been in prison since 30 November. He denies the charges.

His unnamed accuser has alleged that he assaulted her at an event organised by the magazine in Goa in November.

Legal experts say if found guilty, Mr Tejpal could be sentenced to at least seven years in jail.

Prosecutors filed charges, running to nearly 2,700 pages, in the court of Goa's Chief Judicial Magistrate Anuja Prabhudesai on Monday.

Analysis

The Tarun Tejpal case is the most high-profile investigation into allegations of rape after new sex crime laws were introduced last year. What sets it apart is that he is accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague in the workplace and abusing his position of power - both of which the Indian legal system has rarely recognised in the past.

The fact that the police made its case in a document almost 3,000 pages long, interviewing more than 150 witnesses in the process, is a graphic reminder of how sensitive the case is and how carefully they are approaching it.

Mr Tejpal is an influential journalist with a reputation for taking on the powerful and his Tehelka magazine is India's leading investigative title.

When the allegations against him first surfaced it shocked many Indians. But its outcome could well set the tone for how India's legal system deals with similar accusations in the future.

More than 152 witnesses, including the victim, the staff of Tehelka magazine and the investigating officer in the case, were questioned before charges were filed.

"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; a person whom she trusted as a fatherly figure and respected as a senior colleague," the charges read.

"This incident has caused serious psychological injury to the dignity, self-esteem and overall personality of [the] victim - young woman journalist - who has made a mark for herself in the field of journalism," the charge sheet says.

Dominating headlines

In November, the woman journalist alleged that Mr Tejpal had assaulted her twice in a hotel elevator on 7 and 8 November when the magazine was hosting its annual Think Fest - a conclave attended by leaders, newsmakers and celebrities from around the world.

After the charges became public, Mr Tejpal first apologised for "a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation" and said he was "recusing" himself from his job for six months to "atone" for an "unfortunate incident".

In this photograph taken on November 22, 2013, protesters burn a photograph of Tarun Tejpal, in New Delhi. The scandal has dominated headlines in India and provoked protests

Later, he described the sexual encounter as "consensual" and "fleeting" and said the allegations were part of a "pre-election political conspiracy".

Mr Tejpal's accuser rejected his claims.

"By filing my complaint, I have lost not just a job that I loved, but much-needed financial security and the independence of my salary. I have also opened myself to personal and slanderous attack. This will not be an easy battle," she said in November.

Correspondents say the scandal has dominated headlines in India, with critics accusing Tehelka magazine - one of India's top investigative titles, which has exposed gender inequality and officially-sanctioned misogyny - of hypocrisy and double standards.

The case resonates particularly because it comes in the wake of a debate about attitudes to sexual violence after the brutal gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012.

Six journalists at Tehelka, including the publication's managing editor, have resigned over the controversy.

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