Thursday, May 27 2021

Dive In

No one could find a way around the problem of the Prime Minister [being] just like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other.

That’s Dominic Cummings—once UK PM Boris Johnson’s closest advisor—throwing him under the bus while testifying in front of a parliamentary committee—looking at the way the government handled the pandemic. He also said it’s “completely crackers” that Johnson is the Prime Minister. And when asked whether Johnson is a “fit and proper” person to lead the country, he answered ‘No’. Yeah, it was that brutal and it will likely have a huge political fallout. Yahoo News has the nine most incendiary quotes from Cummings’ seven-hour testimony.

Big Story

Editor’s note: We are delighted to have Jaskirat Singh Bawa write our explainer for the Tarun Tejpal ruling—a case he has followed for years as a former journalist and newsroom manager.


The presumed innocence of Tarun Tejpal

The TLDR: The former Tehelka editor has been acquitted of all rape charges—and the ruling has made many very angry. The 527-page judgement has parts that are enraging, surprising and at times, worrying. But it makes crystal-clear that in a court of law, the great burden of proof remains on the rape accuser—which she apparently failed to meet to the satisfaction of the judge. Here’s a breakdown of its highlights. (We apologise in advance for the headache-inducing long-winded quotes from the ruling.)


Remind me about this case...

The accused: Tarun Tejpal is Tehelka magazine's founder-editor, a prominent journalist and a novelist. Tejpal launched Tehelka in 2000 after decades of working in top publications like Indian Express, India Today and Outlook. At Tehelka, Tejpal broke some of the biggest investigative stories in Indian journalism and polarised the media community by using "sting operations.” The biggest one you may have heard about: Operation West End


The location: In 2013, Tehelka organised the third edition of ‘THiNKFest’—an event the magazine marketed as “India’s premier intellectual event” hosted at the Grand Hyatt in Goa. The glittering cast of speakers included Amitabh Bachchan, Robert De Niro, Farhan Akhtar, Jay Panda, Nandan Nilekani and others. 


The allegation: On the sidelines of this event—on the evenings of November 7 and 8—Tejpal allegedly sexually assaulted a female colleague inside the elevator of the hotel. The woman was a young journalist at the time and was also known to Tejpal’s family. 


The context: While the Tarun Tejpal rape allegations case hit the headlines five years before India’s MeToo reckoning, it occurred less than a year after the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape and murder case. There was a charged atmosphere around the issue of crimes of violence and sexual assault against women.


The ruling: Seven years and six months after the allegations first came to light, Tejpal was exonerated of all charges. The verdict was delivered by Goa district court’s Additional Sessions Judge Kshama Joshi on Friday, May 21.


So what took them so long?

Here’s a quick timeline of the past seven-odd years:

  • Tejpal was arrested on November 30, 2013 by the Goa Police’s Crime Branch. 
  • After his bail pleas were rejected by various trial courts and the Bombay High Court, he was finally granted interim relief on July 1, 2014 by the Supreme Court.
  • In February 2014, the Goa Crime Branch filed a 2,846 page chargesheet against Tejpal.
  • On September 29, 2017, the District and Sessions Court in Goa framed charges under the Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty), 354 A (sexual harassment), 354 B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 376 (2)(f) (person in position of authority over women, committing rape) and 376 (2)(k) (rape by person in position of control).
  • The trial began in September but was continually delayed because Tejpal moved the High Court and the Supreme Court to challenge the charges levelled against him.
  • In August 2019, the Supreme Court declined his plea and ordered that the trial be held in-camera (not open for public) and ordered that it be completed in six months.


Why are people angry with the judgment?


In today’s edition

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