Tehelka sexual assault case could be a game changer for media | comment | Hindustan Times
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Tehelka sexual assault case could be a game changer for media

The outcome of the Tarun Tejpal case, if conducted meticulously, could rid the media of many flaws. But given the politicisation of the matter, it will be a litmus test for the law.

comment Updated: Dec 01, 2013 22:25 IST

Let the law take its course — most people are suffering from fatigue listening to this phrase ad nauseam in the media. Now that legal proceedings have begun against the accused in the alleged Goa molestation case, one might be forgiven for thinking that the law will take its course.

But it is unlikely.

Both sides will, of course, attempt to discredit the other, indeed Tarun Tejpal has pulled out all the stops to do so.

However, so far the victim seems on fairly firm ground on her allegations that her editor and the owner of Tehelka attempted to molest her in a lift largely owing to Tarun Tejpal’s apology after she brought the incident to light.

The legal battle will be joined now.

This will be a litmus test for the law and it can only be hoped that the matter is speedily resolved. But, on the face of it, that looks unlikely given the politicisation of the matter which is really diverting from the main issue which is of whether the allegation of rape by the victim is true.

Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar has alluded to the fact that the now beleaguered news vehicle was planning a sting operation against him and that he had nothing to fear. Top leaders from both the BJP and the Congress have been trading charges on the issue.

The BJP has alleged that Tejpal enjoyed the patronage of sections of the Congress which has hit back to say that certain BJP leaders have also patronised unsavoury, indeed, criminal netas. In the middle of all this, a BJP non-entity from Delhi sought to get his 15 seconds of fame by vandalising the exterior of the home of Tehelka’s former managing editor Shoma Chaudhury on the grounds that he was so agitated that she did not stand by her junior colleague.

We can only hope that the police will be meticulous in its collection of evidence and recording of statements. In earlier cases, we have seen justice fall by the wayside due to shoddy investigation. In many ways, the outcome of this trial will have an impact on the media.

It already has sent out a strong signal that past record, in Tejpal’s case the fact that his magazine exposed many instances of corruption, affords you no shield of protection from the law. It has also shown that a young woman who is not afraid to speak up about an alleged injustice should and will get a great deal of support.

Such developments, irrespective of the outcome of the case, can only be the first step towards cleaning up a slothful and permissive system in the media and other organisations.