The BJP-Congress slugfest over Tejpal affair continued on Wednesday, with senior BJP leader and leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj saying a Union cabinet minister is "shielding" the Tehelka editor.
Without naming anyone, but probably referring to law minister Kapil Sibal, Swaraj tweeted , "Union cabinet minister who is the founder and patron of Tehelka is shielding Tarun Tejpal."
Hours later, Sibal told reporters, “Because I have been attacking (Narendra) Modi and attacking the BJP, obviously for them this is the only way to spread lie and to vilify my name.”
“These political leaders who are tangentially talking about me should name me if they have the courage," he added, while promising to say more at a press conference on Thursday.
Referring to reports that he owned 80% of Tehelka’s shares, he said he had never owned a single share in the magazine.
His sharpest reaction was to messages circulating in the social media and which said Tejpal’s mother was his real sister.
“It is a lie. I have only one sister, Asha Nanda, and she lives in Maharani Bagh. I didn’t expect RSS and BJP to stoop to this level. They have the patent to spread lies, but I didn’t expect the same from the leader of Opposition,” he said.
Tehelka sting operations, which showed former BJP president Bangaru Laxman accepting bribes for facilitating a defence deal and accused in Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom confessing to murdering innocent people, had bought a bad name to the saffron party. Its leaders have been very vocal in condemning Tejpal.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who has been actively briefing media about the developments in the case and claiming neutrality at the same time, asked Tehelka editor-in-chief Traun Tejpal if he was a "Congress stooge", and also why were Congress union ministers like Jayanthi Natarajan supporting him.
"I feel psychologically his guilt conscience made him take self sanyas (penance) for six months. It is a testimony to his guilt conscience. Probably he thought the issue will cool down after this," he said.
The Goa CM said his government was duty bound to give the girl justice after she came out openly and was cooperating with the police.
He said Tejpal's sudden suspicion toward Goa police must have emerged “out of the advice given by his advisers or he must have realised that he was getting sucked into deep trouble”.
Parrikar said compared with Rs 3 lakh given by the BJP government for Tehelka’s THiNK festival last year and no money this year, the previous Congress government had sanctioned Rs 45 lakh for the event.
Tejpal has alleged that the Goa government was giving him a bad time because the ruling BJP had a "long standing grudge" against him for the investigative journalism he did when the party headed the central government.
Yesterday, 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 P C Chacko drew parallels of this case with the snooping scandal allegedly involving Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
In his anticipatory bail petition filed yesterday, while dismissing the encounter with the woman journalist as “light-hearted bantering”, Tejpal had pointed finger at Goa police and BJP government in the state for hatching a conspiracy against him.
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Tejpal had exposed, fought communal forces for a long time, says Digvijaya
Tejpal summoned by Goa cops, journalists narrates her version before magistrate
Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal’s arrest appeared imminent after the Goa police sent him summons seeking his personal appearance by 3 pm on Thursday and Delhi High Court offered him no relief on his anticipatory bail application.
The legal noose around Tejpal also tightened when the woman journalist he allegedly sexually assaulted recorded her statement before judicial magistrate (first class) Sarika Phaldessai in Goa capital, a day after the police recorded her statement at her residence in Mumbai.
She was flown secretly to Goa and taken to a trial court complex in Panaji, where her statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The statement made under this section becomes evidence that can be used against the person giving it. The statement is crucial for the Goa police to ensure a strong case in the trial court, as a statement recorded by the police is not enough, should the victim at a later stage retract.
She is also learnt to have corroborated the FIR the Goa police filed after taking suo moto cognizance of the complaint she had mailed to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, making Tejpal’s arrest imminent.
Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, Tejpal’s alleged assault made in the elevator of a starred hotel in Goa during the magazine’s THiNK festival falls in the definition of rape.
News channels quoted Goa police counsel saying the email exchange between Tepal and Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury made it “an open and shut case”.
On Wednesday, the court in Goa was tightly guarded by more than 60 police officials through the day to keep the growing crowds at bay. The journalist finally emerged from the court at 6pm, with her head covered, along with four other decoys, also covered, so as to protect her identity.
She was taken away by the police, though it was unclear whether she was returning to Mumbai or taken to the scene of crime.
Goa deputy inspector general of police OP Mishra declined to answer a question on whether there would be a medical examination of the journalist. He also remained mum when asked whether Tejpal would be arrested or not, saying the “law will take its course”.
The journalist has once again narrated the sequence of events where Tejpal allegedly sexually assaulted her, events she had first detailed in her email of complaint to managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, which formed a significant part of the police’s FIR.
In her mail she had said Tejpal had forced himself on her on two occasions in the elevator of the five star hotel on back to back days on November 7 and 8.
Despite resisting him on the first occasion, he had sexually assaulted her a second time, the following day, she had told Chaudhury. On both occasions he had tried to keep the lift in circuit while assaulting her.
Dealing another blow to Tejpal, the Delhi high court reserved order on his anticipatory bail application for Friday.
Justice Sunita Gupta also declined to grant any interim protection to Tejpal against arrest by the Goa police.
Till Friday Tejpal has no legal protection from arrest and he can approach the Supreme Court for interim relief till then. After the court reserved its order on the bail plea, his lawyer told reporters the accused editor was “not underground and will travel to Goa”.
During arguments over the bail application, Tejpal’s lawyer said the victim's version has to be taken with a "pinch of salt".
But Goa police counsel Mukul Rohtag requested the court to dismiss the bail plea.
"There is no question of consent. This incident happened to the hapless victim. This offence shows the depravity of highest order by a man who is having control over the victim," he said.Read More :Did not slander Tejpal's victim: Shoma
Poll: Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal alleges a political conspiracy behind the sexual assault case. Do you agree with him?