Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday attacked the Congress saying that a Union cabinet minister and founder-patron of Tehelka is shielding its editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal in a sexual assault case.
The Congress and the BJP have been involved in a war of words over the issue with the saffron party accusing it of trying to protect Tejpal because of his close connections in the party.
Without naming anyone, the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha tweeted, "Union Cabinet Minister who is the founder and patron of Tehelka is shielding Tarun Tejpal."
Earlier, leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley too had accused Congress of going soft on Tejpal.
"Just because the assailant has connections in the Congress party, the nation is deprived of the sage advice of P Chidambaram, the caustic comments of Kapil Sibal and the exaggerated tweets of Manish Tewari. Manish Tewari was in Goa recently, he discovered Hitler there. What a pity that he could not discover a serial rapist in Goa," Jaitley wrote in his blog last Friday.
Tejpal had alleged in his bail plea that the registration of an FIR and the pursuant investigation by the Goa Police was a result of the BJP's political vendetta to satisfy a "long standing grudge" against him for the investigative journalism done by Tehelka against the BJP. Goa is ruled by the BJP.
In 2001, the Tehelka had caught the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman on camera accepting money for recommending a fictitious company West End International to the Indian Army for contracts on hand-held thermal imagers. Laxman was convicted in the case in 2012.
Subsequently, Tehelka did a series of stories based on the sting operations that claimed the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom was possible because of the connivance of the state police and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Several accused in the riots cases had confessed to undercover Tehelka reporters to killing people.
The Tehelka founder-editor had moved Delhi high court on Monday seeking anticipatory bail in order to enable him to approach the appropriate court for remedy in accordance with law.
The 50-year-old journalist claimed that the FIR in which he has been booked for rape was registered in “pursuance of a well-planned criminal conspiracy to falsely prosecute” him.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar had dismissed speculations that investigation against Tejpal would be a witch hunt just because Tehelka's stories have consistently targeted BJP in the past.
"I am not monitoring the case. In fact, I was briefed about the case by the police after the filing of the FIR," Parrikar had said last week.
He added that he was not taking any updates from the investigating officer. The Goa chief minister also said he had told the police not to be bogged down by any pressure, however, important the accused is.
Rejecting Tejpal's demand that the sexual assault case against him be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), BJP had said he may use this as an "escape route" as he is close to the ruling Congress.
On Tuesday, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu had said, "This (plea to give case to CBI) can be an excuse. It may be an escape route to get away... Congress likes Tejpal and he likes Congress."
Congress, however, rejected BJP's contention and claimed that there is no reason why this issue should be linked to politics.
Party spokesperson PC Chacko drew parallels of this case with the snooping scandal allegedly involving Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
The Goa Police had on November 22 lodged an FIR against Tejpal under IPC sections 376 (rape), 376 (2)(K) (rape by a person of a woman in his custody taking advantage of his official position) and 354 (outraging modesty). Conviction under section 376 of IPC entails a maximum of life term in jail.
(With inputs from PTI)