Dr. Swamy at Tipu Sultan – The Tyrant of Mysore book release in Mysore Dec 14, 2013
Bar & Bench speaks with Subramanian Swamy, an Indian academician, politician, economist and legal activist. In this interview, he talks about his love for law, how he got involved in litigation, and the peculiarities of being a “non-lawyer”.
Bar & Bench: For a “non-lawyer”, you are a familiar face in more than one court. How did it all start?
Subramanian Swamy: The first time I ever argued in court was in 1982. This was when Ram Jethmalani (he was then with the BJP and I was with the Janata Party) filed a criminal defamation case against me. It was a turning point in my life.
Most lawyers told me that they did not want to appear against Jethmalani. My wife, who is a Parsi lawyer, had a highly rated criminal lawyer friend PR Vakil and he advised me to argue myself. He said, “I will coach you but you argue”. So, that is how I began. I argued that case, and won it too, with Jethmalani on the opposite side.
Later, I was again subjected to a defamation case by Ramkrishna Hegde, who was the then Chief Minister of Karnataka. I had accused him of appropriating land in Bangalore for the benefit of his son-in-law. The reaction was the same as is now regarding my accusation against Kejriwal; because he carried the image of a man with extra-ordinary honesty and was a potential Prime Minister of India. So everybody came down upon me. He filed a Rs. 100 crore defamation suit in Bombay. Then I argued in the Supreme Court on forum non-convenience and I succeeded. I appeared before Justice Ahmadi here. It is a reported judgment.
My wife has always been the principal back up. She essentially prepares the petition because I think she has the stomach for arguing these aggressive cases.
I won every defamation case filed against me. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha filed close to 100 defamation cases against me in different courts between 1992 and 1996. I took the matter to the Supreme Court and got the famous New York Times Case of 1964 read into law. It provided that if a person in public life, including one in government, feels aggrieved by a defamatory statement, then that person must not only prove in the court that the defamatory statement is false but also that the maker of the statement knew it to be false. This principle, thus, reversed the traditional onus on the defamer and placed the burden of proof on the defamed. Later, Jayalalitha withdrew all the 100 cases filed against me.
Subsequently, Jethmalani filed three more defamation cases and lost all of them. I found that people realised that I am an authority in defamation cases that they stopped filing defamation cases against me. No such case has been filed against me since 1998.
B&B: What about all the PILs filed by you? Where did this start?
Swamy: As I started appearing in court, I found several public interest matters. There was one matter that was not quite a public interest matter. I had tried to go to an island called Katchatheevu between India and Sri Lanka and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran got me arrested. I brought the matter before the Supreme Court and won that case. Then, I filed a number of cases seeking a CBI enquiry in police firing etc. Subsequently, the big case for public interest came when I fought for Tamil farmers regarding Mullaperiyar dam and I won that too. After that I filed a large number of PILs and have lost count now.
B&B: What prompted you to get involved in litigation?
Swamy: I felt that people were losing faith in politicians with politicians making statements that so and so is corrupt etc. Up to the mid-90’s people were ready to listen but then I felt nothing was really happening. So, I thought that I must do the logical thing of filing complaints and then going to court – that became more credible work. That was the motivation and ultimately I tested it on the 2G case and it was immensely successful.
B&B: In an article in the Indian Express you said, “I got tutorials in law from several well-known lawyers.”
Swamy: Instead of directly saying that they tutored me, I would say that I have benefited by frequent conversations on social occasions, through personal contacts with lawyers like Fali Nariman, to some extent KK Venugopal and to a limited extent Soli Sorabjee. Most of all, Nariman, with whom I have been friends for a long time and, of course, he is Parsi so there is always some connection. As I told you, for criminal cases it was PR Vakil.
I have one habit, which I have acquired from the days of being a student and a professor; never hesitate to ask somebody a question, do not worry what he might think. Even when I am sitting in court also on the either side, I will ask people who are not ideologically with me like Rajiv Dhavan, or Parasaran and even Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
I was also the Law Minister for some time. So I have interacted with judges. I know some of the Supreme Court judges whom I had appointed. So I meet them and pick their brains.
B&B: You even tried registering as your wife’s court clerk to get quicker access into the Supreme Court premises. How did you get the idea?
Swamy: I tried to. What was happening was every time I would have to go to court I would have to stand in a long queue for a pass to enter the Supreme Court. So I wanted something as a long-term pass. It was suggested to me by the Supreme Court Bar Association, who later on didn’t want to be quoted, that since I do a lot of work almost as a clerk for my wife, I can apply for a clerk’s pass. It was cleared, but the Indian Express being a nasty newspaper was motivated by P Chidambaram got to know and made a big issue. The consequence of that is instead of getting daily passes now I get monthly passes; and because of the controversy they could not give me the proximity pass. The proximity pass was never denied. They have asked me to pick it up but every time I go they say “abhi Mumbai se nahi pahucha” (it has not yet come from Mumbai) or something like that.
It is true that I do a lot of clerking for my wife. She would prepare a brief and ask me to go file it. I get work done faster because everybody recognizes me, they see me on television. So, the essential work I was doing was a clerk’s work; I was not telling a lie. I am also publicly known. So I can’t tell a lie that I am a clerk. The Bar Association cleared it and recommended it also. Now the problem is over because I get monthly pass. And for Delhi High Court, I have a parliament pass. The Delhi High Court went a step further and allowed me to just show my ID without mandating a pass.
B&B: You have been filing all these PILs and are involved in a number of big cases. How does it all function, how do you research? Who is part of your legal team like?
Swamy: I used to do most of the research myself; but now it has become so extensive – the amount of work, the number of cases and so on. And then out of the blue came two youngsters, one of them is Supriya Manan. She is a young lawyer and an absolute wizard on the Internet; and her fiancé Ishkaran Singh Bhandari is very good in looking at the law.
So, now I am being assisted by them and from time to time, some students have come and have interned with me. It was very strange but they somehow got their universities to accept that they could be my understudy while in college. So a lot of young law students have been coming and I give them projects. They have done a lot of good work.
I have devised things which others find difficult to believe.
The recent judgment on EVMs and whether a foreign citizen can be an editor of Indian newspaper in which the judgment is awaited are both quite interesting cases. These two young lawyers researched on these cases. So, now the scope of my PILs is in pioneering areas, no more in traditional arbitrariness, unreasonableness. It is more in the areas of constructing the law.
B&B: You have been appearing in courts since the 80’s. How did the judges perceive you initially and how do they perceive you now?
Swamy: I think the most important thing that has come through – and this I have heard from judges sitting next to me in airplanes as co-passengers and so on – is that they feel that many of these public interest litigations is basically a way of scaring the other side, and getting some kind of settlement. You just get paid and you forget about your litigation; or you get threatened or you get scared and you walk off.
So when I appear, I have managed to create the impression that I will not let go once I have taken something and there is nobody who will make me back down. No power can make me back down and there would be no price for which I will settle. So that confidence does matter to a judge. When [judges] see that somebody is using [litigation] as a source of blackmail they become a little apprehensive. They don’t want to be a party to that.
Second, I am in the public life and I have been Law Minister. When I ceased to be a Law Minister, the Supreme Court gave me a farewell party, which is very unusual. They said that, “for the first time we are convinced, that a non-lawyer should be the law minister because he doesn’t allow the Bar loyalties to enter the picture.” Whereas, if you are a lawyer and if you have had a clash with somebody, a lot of injustice is committed if such a person becomes a minister.
Also, the judges have found that my research is original. In fact, most of the judges ask me for my notes. When I argued the Ram Setu case, they asked for my notes and when I argued the case of New York Times Standard, Justice Jeevan Reddy said, ”Give me all your notes”. So I gave him the copy of my notes and then I found that he used them in the judgment.
Also, I have been very careful never to make an allegation against a judge no matter how adverse the judgment is.
B&B: So was it difficult to get the judges’ confidence in the beginning?
Swamy: I was always a well-known figure. Also I was a Member of Parliament and have been very active on television all the time. But over the years they feel that I have also acquired scholarship. I have a new point; I have a view, which nobody else has, about a new point of law, or a new way of looking at something. For instance, the judgment on Electronic Voting Machine – the judges have formally thanked me for it. The commitment that I have brought out and shown, that is what matters. And I am not known to be corrupt as a lawyer. I am not one of those who take fees, I do it free of charge.
B&B: Going back over the last two decades do you see any difference in our judiciary?
Swamy: I think today’s judges are more honest than the judges I saw in 80’s. I am particularly impressed with these young ladies who have come in the Patiala House [District Court] – they are very sharp. There is also enormous respect for the judiciary. Especially after the 2G judgment- the judiciary became God. I can tell you that in 90’s there were some very bad judges in the Supreme Court and the High Courts. You can see that some judges are reluctant to take up your case because they may be slated to go to the Supreme Court but generally I have found very good judges.
B&B: What are your views on the Judicial Appointments Commission and the Executive having a say in appointments?
Swamy: There is a human element in the decision-making, personal likes and dislikes and so on. I don’t think there is a perfect system. Suppose you make a rule that the Minister of Law will not be a member of the Bar, then I think a greater say for the government is also not bad. But in the end I would say any system has a human element in it and there is no perfect system unless the human being is perfect
B&B: So do you think we should move away from the collegium system?
Swamy: No, I don’t think so. I think there will be no great improvement in the selection process [with the JAC]. Both the systems have pros and cons. The collegium system was brought in because what the then Law Minister HR Bhardwaj did was terrible. His appointments were really bad. So, such things should not happen. Judges are very thin skinned, they have prejudices and so on but some corrections are there. Also, collegium recommendations are not binding, the President can always say, “No, I won’t sign the warrant.”
B&B: If you become the Law Minister once again, what legal reforms would you bring?
Swamy: I would like to bring one reform, which is very good for speedy justice. But it means a lot of work for the lawyers. I tried to introduce it when I was the Law Minister but the then Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra told me, ”You will only have strikes once you are through”. And that is the provision in the CPC for discovery and interrogatories wherein before you go to trial, you get everything in affidavit form. This system is prevalent in the USA. The cost of litigation will go up a bit but it will reduce the time taken. The plaintiff will get 20 minutes; respondent/defendant will get 20 minutes and 10 minutes for rebuttal. That is it; and then the court will retire to its chambers and come back after 15 minutes and deliver the judgment.
There are so many case files and the judges hear every one of them and people give bulky documents. I think we need to empower the judges to hire 20-30 research assistants. They can read the case, summarize the case and give them the points and the judges may not even have a hearing for dismissal. The court can notify a dismissal saying, “We are not going to take up this case as there is nothing in it”; particularly at the Supreme Court level.
I would like no judge to retire. He can be out of the Bench i.e he won’t sit in the Supreme Court after some age. I think it should be at the age of 70 so that you don’t disturb the seniority. So at the age of 70, the judge stops sitting in the Supreme Court but he sits in another Bench like a reserve Supreme Court where the Supreme Court judge may refer cases because they are overloaded. In America, the Supreme Court handles 200 cases in a year. In India every Bench hears 300 cases a day. The Supreme Court should say, ”It is not a very important case (and is on a small technical ground) but it is important for the petitioners, so hand it over to the reserve Supreme Court.” So no judge should retire at all till he is medically certified unfit. You have to reduce the workload on the judges. It is too high. It is not fair!
B&B: What are your views on a uniform civil code?
Swamy: I am certainly for it. You call yourself a secular country and you have two different laws. It is anti-gender. Why should a man have a right to marry four women, then you should allow women also to marry four men. It is gender biased. I certainly think that a uniform civil code is very necessary.
B&B: Your party has merged with BJP. If it comes to power, how will you balance your filing of PILs as a petitioner and a party member?
Swamy: Suppose I become a Minister it will be a problem. If I get an interesting portfolio where I can do something, I don’t need to do this. I can do it through the Ministry but if they give me Sports Portfolio or something, I will say, “Look, forget about my being a Minister, I will do this.”
B&B: Any PILs in the pipeline?
Swamy: I am preparing a PIL to do away with criminal defamation, as it is unconstitutional. We should have only civil defamation. Nobody should go to jail for expressing a defamatory view. You can go to jail perhaps if you deliberately incite people to riot but if you say someone is an idiot, you shouldn’t go to jail for that.
I have just finished a PIL and got myself impleaded in a writ petition for equal inheritance right to Muslim women where I am claiming that a Muslim father has no right to write a will according to his wishes as far as women are concerned. Women are at a disadvantage because the best they can get is one-third share.
B&B: Why didn’t you study law?
Swamy: I did attend classes at Harvard and I also briefly attended evening classes in Delhi University. It was interrupted by the Emergency and so I could not complete it. I might have got a law degree then but later on I felt that supposing I get a law degree, I would get sucked into law because you get paid so highly. Then I might forget my main mission in life, which was to be an economist. I still want to be an economist and I want to be a professor but [I] couldn’t because there was discrimination against me because I was anti-socialist. So the communists ganged up against me and won’t let me teach. I didn’t want to go back to USA.
I was selected for the job of professor of Economics at IIT (Delhi) in 1969 but the Leftists conspired to terminate my professorship within a year. I was sacked from IIT because Mrs. Gandhi was angry with me because I was criticizing her and the communist scared the hell out her. They said I would have a bad effect on students. It was not just the class, but hostels, JNU; and I was challenging the orthodoxy of Marxism and also because of my Harvard glamour I was having a huge impact. So they thought that they should get rid of me.
My wife fought that case and we won after 22 years. Now I have demanded my salary with interest which is Rs. 1 crore.
B&B: What are your views on legal profession?
Swamy: First thing, the time has now come when minimal legal knowledge should be made compulsory in school and colleges, particularly all women colleges. The law is a powerful tool. When somebody knows that you know the law, he is very careful with you. I think women are vulnerable at a physical level, so knowledge of law is very important. The police and everybody else behaves better if you know the law. So law should become like English grammar or elementary mathematics. That is one thing I would like to see.
B&B: Any legal mentor?
Swamy: I wouldn’t say I had a mentor, but there have been many lawyers from whom I have learnt and consulted. KTS Tulsi has always stood by me and any time I have difficulty in criminal matters, I will call him up. Anything on Constitutional matters I will call Nariman and sometimes KK Venugopal. I also consult PP Rao, although he is very reluctant to give advice.
B&B: Your office looks exactly like that of a lawyer.
Swamy: I am having difficulty in convincing people that I am not a lawyer. People come outside my house, “mera case le lo, mera zamin chala gaya” [Please take my case, otherwise I will lose my land]. I tell them I am not a lawyer; they won’t believe it. In many T.V programs I have been introduced as a Senior Advocate.
B&B: Any message for young lawyers?
Swamy: Well I think, the main thing one has to develop now – because the fees is growing in leaps and bounds – is you shouldn’t fight more than 50% of your cases for money. This is a profession for which the impression is that they are all sharks. That impression should be done away with.
The complainant journalist resigns from Tehelka: ‘It is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer — but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively.
Text of the letter written by the young journalist, who has accused Tehelka editor in chief Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her, to Tehelka managing edigtor Shoma Chaudhury
I am resigning from my position as ****** at Tehelka magazine, with immediate effect, because Tehelka’s Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal sexually molested me on two occasions in November this year.
I am deeply traumatized by the lack of support offered by the organization.
In such circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to work for this organization.
At this moment, I would like to present the following facts to support my claim:
1. I was sexually molested by Tarun Tejpal on two occasions, the 7th and 8th of November 2013 at the annual Think festival in Goa this year. In the emails of apology that followed my complaint to you about Mr Tejpal’s grievous sexual misconduct, he admitted to the fact, and apologized unconditionally.
2. I requested, at the very least, for Mr Tejpal to acknowledge this apology publicly to the staff and bureau of Tehelka. While I did not want this acknowledgement to have graphic details, I asked that the words “sexual misconduct” be included. In a phone conversation with me, you asked that he be recused from doing so because he had already admitted to sexual molestation in his emails, and because we needed to “protect the institution”. In this conversation, I said, “I trust you to do the right thing”.
3. In the public acknowledgement sent to the bureau, Mr Tejpal and you referred to his act of sexual violation as “an untoward incident”— this was not an attempt to “protect the institution” but in fact, an attempt to cover up what had really occurred—the act of sexual molestation, an admission of the facts that Mr Tejpal had “attempted sexual liaison” with me (to quote his email) on two occasions despite my “reluctance to receive such attention”. Further, in conversations with my colleagues, you admitted to them that you did not see the need to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per the Vishaka guidelines, because you did not contest my version of what had occurred on the nights of 7th and 8th of November.
4. In your appearances on national news channels, you first attempted to establish that I was “satisfied” with Tehelka’s actions, when only one of my immediate demands from the organization had been met—namely, that Mr Tejpal had unconditionally apologized for sexually molesting me in private emails to you and I. His public acknowledgement of the apology did not include any reference to his grievous sexual misconduct, and you had still failed to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per Vishaka guidelines. This could, in no way, have left me “satisfied”. Further, I had responded to both of Mr Tejpal’s emails (cc’d to you and the three colleagues I had confided everything to since the 7th of November) clarifying:
You continued to ignore my rebuttals to these emails, while insisting, in public, that I was satisfied.
5. You are now attempting to establish that Mr Tejpal has “another version” of events (as surely, any sexual predator does), and that the “encounter” may have been consensual or non-consensual. Meanwhile, on the night of the 22nd of November, an immediate member of Mr Tejpal’s family went to my mother’s house to ask her the details of my legal counsel, and what I “wanted” as a result of my complaint about being sexually molested by Mr Tejpal. In emails and text messages sent to his friends, read out on national news channels, Mr Tejpal is now claiming that what occurred was a “fleeting, consensual encounter”; and that he wrote his apologies to me because of your “adamantine feminist principles”.
Over the past years, we have collectively defended the rights of women, written about custodial rape, sexual molestation at the workplace, spoken out harshly against the culture of victim blame and the tactical emotional intimidation and character assassination of those who dare to speak out against sexual violence.
At a time when I find myself victim to such a crime, I am shattered to find the Editor in Chief of Tehelka, and you— in your capacity as Managing Editor— resorting to precisely these tactics of intimidation, character assassination and slander.
Given the sequence of events since the 7th of November, it is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer—but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively.
Please consider my resignation effective immediately. Continue reading
Ever since news came in that the Goa Police had registered a rape case against Tarun Tejpal in response to a young journalist’s charges of sexual assault against him, there was a change of stance, instead of this being touted as an “internal matter” or counter questions about whether or not one was an aggrieved party, we now suddenly started hearing insinuations about there being different versions of what had actually happened, and whether what had earlier been dismissed as an “untoward incident” was, in the words of Tehelka managing editior, “consensual or non-consensual”.
The following text from Tarun Tejpal, purportedly sent to his friends, also did the rounds today:
All my actions so far were out of an attempt to preserve the girl’s dignity and on Shoma’s adamantine feminist-principle insistence that I keep correct form by apologising. The truth is it was a fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!) Now that a committee has been announced the truth will come out. As will the cctv footage. My life and work have been trashed on a total lie.
Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury mentioned on NDTV that Tejpal and she were being judged solely on the “wrong tonality” of the earlier leaked emails, and that the unconditional apology that Tarun Tejpal had given the complainant could perhaps help place Tehelka’s behaviour in context.
Tejpal himself put out a statement:
There have been serious allegations cast on me in this last week, and unfortunately as sometimes happens in life, the complete truth and the need to do the honorable thing can come into conflict. In this case this anguish was accentuated by the fact that very many intimate people, professional and personal, were involved.
For four days, as demanded by Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor, and the recipient of the complaint, I have tried to do what was honorably demanded of me. On Tuesday I issued an apology for the alleged misconduct, as desired by the journalist through Shoma Chaudhury. On Wednesday I stepped down from the editorship of Tehelka and removed myself from the office premises. On Thursday I learnt of the formation of the complaints committee.
I offer my fullest cooperation to the police and all other authorities, and look to presenting all the facts of this incident to it. I also urge the committee and the police to obtain, examine and release the cctv footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed.
Tarun J Tejpal
We have been able to get a copy of the “unconditional apology” that Tarun Tejpal wrote to the young journalist on Tuesday, November 19, which, inter alia, clearly states:
I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.
That even this ‘unconditional apology’ itself was insincere becomes clear from the response to this email by the young journalist who writes categorically:
The use of the words “sexual liaison” is a clear misrepresentation of facts, and an attempt to obfuscate the truth — that he sexually molested me, on two separate occasions and that he violated my bodily integrity and trust.
Clearly, we need to see today’s spin about a “totally consensual encounter” in the context of the whole sequnce of events, the flipflops in various emails and TV appearances, and the following emails that provide a pretty detailed account of what actually happened on the nights of Nov 7 and 8.
Postscript: Edited to add at 10:46 PM: the Indian Express is carrying a report by Ritu Sarin: It’s a lie, I am being framed, says Tarun Tejpal, blaming “political forces driving much of it”:
“It is a totally mendacious account of what happened, in its details, in its tonalities, in its very suggestion of non-consensus.”
“In cold light of day, much of it will sound unsavoury, but now the inquiry will reveal it all”
Tejpal also said that the allegation by the journalist that he told her the best way to keep her job was by not resisting his advances, was a “half-truth”. “This is one of the half-truths she’s voiced. Nothing of this, as she states, was said or intended,” he said.
“My lawyers know I am being framed, and are also aware of the political forces driving much of it now,” he added.
Full text of the email sent by Tarun Tejpal to the young journalist on November 19, 2013. The journalist’s response of November 21 follows this email:
This is the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. You are a young woman I have been very proud of, as a colleague’s daughter, and then as a colleague in my own office. I have watched you grow and mature professionally into a journalist of great integrity and promise.
It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.
I understand the extreme distress you have been feeling and if regret could turn time back, the force of mine would surely place us all back in a space and time before this terrible lapse.
I know you feel I used my position as Editor, Tehelka to force my attention on you, and I acknowledge that I did at one point say to your contention that I was your boss, “That makes it simpler,” but I do want to put on record that the moment those words escaped my lips, I retracted them saying “I withdraw that straight away – no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”. I want to reiterate that again today: despite my colossal lapse, working and succeeding in Tehelka will never be predicated on anyone acquiescing to anything untoward. It never has and never will. Having said that though, I acknowledge that there is an inherent disbalance of power in my position as editor-in-chief and you as an employee of Tehelka and there is absolutely no ground or circumstance in which I should have violated the propriety and trust embedded in that relationship.
Tehelka has a proud legacy and body of work, to which you yourself and legions of other journalists have contributed. As the founder and editor-in-chief, I have helmed and nurtured this proud institution, and I cannot imagine what insanity drove me to compromise these long, proud years of trust and public work.
There are many, many reasons, therefore, why I am smothered with regret. But I want you to know that foremost among them is the fact that I have hurt you and broken your trust in me, and that of many others around me. I have often spoken for the absolute rights and freedoms of women, and it shames me beyond words, to find myself located in this awful context. I would say it was a moment of insanity, except that would mean evading responsibility for it, and that I will not do. I hold myself, first and last, accountable.
I know Shoma has urged you not to leave Tehelka, and even as I acknowledge that I have lost the right to say this to you, I would urge you not to leave either. At the very least, I would like to assure you that the space to do your work proudly and freely, without worrying about fear or favour, will always be available to you here.
For long years, you have known a different man, a man and editor you trusted and were proud to know. In extreme contrition, I would like you to know that but for this unconscionable lapse, that man still exists and holds you in highest regard.
If an apology can heal, please consider this an unconditional one.
In response to this email, the complainant responded on November 21, in an email to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury that Tejpal’s account of what happened on the 7th and 8th of November differed from hers on the following counts:
1. The use of the words “sexual liaison” is a clear misrepresentation of facts, and an attempt to obfuscate the truth — that he sexually molested me, on two separate occasions and that he violated my bodily integrity and trust.
2. He did not even once, utter the words “I withdraw that straight away – no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”. I have written this in my response to his ‘private’ email to me as well, which is cc’d to you and my colleagues who have known about him sexually molesting me from the 7th of November.
She went on to also point out:
In conversations with my colleagues you have said that you do not contest the facts of my testimony, which is why you do not see it necessary to constitute an anti sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines in this case. However, given that his apology presents an entirely different version from my testimony, i.e. attempts to establish that a “sexual liaison” took place as opposed to him sexually molesting me, I insist once again in the spirit of justice, to constitute an anti sexual harassment cell in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines to investigate this matter.
She also asked Chaudhury to:
publicly withdraw your statement that I or other Tehelka journalists are “satisfied”, since my colleagues do not know the full extent of what was done to me, and I am deeply hurt that as my mentor, you could suggest in any way that this blatant misrepresentation of facts would be satisfactory to me.
Tehelka’s correspondent has accused Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting during Tehelka’s ‘Think’ seminar in Goa.
Meanwhile, Tejpal has confessed to the crime and tendred written apology to his woman colleague. Tejpal also took six-month leave as atonement for his act.
However, Tarun Tejpal might be arrested by the Goa police after Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar ordered probe into the matter.
Here is the complete e-mail of the victim to Tehelka’s Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury:
It is extremely painful for me to write this email to you – I have struggled with finding an easier way to say it, but there isn’t one. The editor in chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, sexually assaulted me at Think on two occasions last week. From the very first moment, I wanted to call you, or find you and tell you what he had done to me – but given how absorbed you were at Think; preparing for and conducting sessions, and the fact that it was impossible for the two of us to get even a minute alone together, I could not. To add to this, I had to process the fact that it was Tarun who molested me — my father’s ex colleague and friend, Tiya’s dad, and someone I had so deeply respected and admired for so many years.
Both times, I returned to my room in a completely distraught condition, trembling and crying. I went straight to Shougat and Ishan’s room, where I called G Vishnu and told them what had been done to me. (All three of them are copied on this email. You can contact them for any clarifications you see necessary). The second time he molested me, I even told Tiya what happened. When he heard I’d told Tiya (she confronted him), he lashed out at me, and I became truly terrified of what he would do. I avoided him in all situations except in rooms full of people, until I checked out of Think on Sunday.
As of Saturday evening, he sent me text messages insinuating that I misconstrued “a drunken banter”. That is not what happened. Banter does not involve forcing yourself on someone, trying to disrobe them, and penetrate them with your fingers despite them pleading for you to stop. As you read through the details of what happened in the attachment to this mail, I hope you will also understand how traumatic and terrifying it has been for me to report this to you — and yet how critical it is that Tehelka constitute an anti sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines immediately, to investigate this matter. At the very least, I will need a written apology from Mr Tejpal and an acknowledgement of the same to be circulated through the organization. It cannot be considered acceptable for him to treat a female employee in this way.
On the night of 7th November 2013, the opening night of Tehelka’s Think festival, I had discharged my duties for the day as the chaperone for Mr Robert De Niro. As it was Mr De Niro and his daughter’s first night in Goa and at the festival, my editor in chief Mr Tarun Tejpal accompanied Mr De Niro, Drena De Niro (his daughter) and I to Mr De Niro’s suite to wish him goodnight. (As his chaperone, my work was to be available all day to Mr De Niro and Drena, take them sightseeing, make sure they were well looked after in Goa and at the Hyatt – until they retired to their suite at night. )
As we left the suite, Mr Tejpal and I were in conversation — I have known him since I was a child, he had worked closely with my father who was also a journalist, and after my father’s accident Mr Tejpal had always been a paternal figure to me. He was responsible for offering me my first job, and was always just a phone call away whenever I needed his advice on a story or life. His daughter, Tiya Tejpal and I are very close friends as well.
As we made our way out of the elevator of Block 7 at the Grand Hyatt, Mr Tejpal held my arm and pulled me back into the lift. He said – “Let’s go wake up Bob” (Mr De Niro) and I asked him why he wanted to do that. I then realized that Mr Tejpal was simply pressing buttons on the lift’s panel to make the elevator stay in circuit, preventing it from stopping anywhere, and for the doors to open.
At this point, he began to kiss me — from the first moment of his doing so, I asked him to stop, citing several reasons, including my friendship to Tiya, my closeness to his family, the fact that he had known me since I was a child, the fact that I worked for Tehelka and for Shoma Chaudhury – who is my managing editor and mentor. It was like talking to a deaf person. Mr Tejpal lifted my dress up, went down on his knees and pulled my underwear down. He attempted to perform oral sex on me as I continued to struggle and hysterically asked him to stop. At that moment he began to try and penetrate me with his fingers, I became scared and pushed him hard and asked him to stop the lift. He would not listen. The lift stopped on the ground floor as Mr Tejpal’s hands were on me and could not press the button for yet another floor to keep it in circuit. As soon as the doors opened, I picked up my underwear and began walking out of the elevator rapidly – he was still following me, asking me what the matter was.
I said “It’s all wrong. I work for you and Shoma.” He said first “It’s alright to be in love with more than one person,” and then he said, “Well, this is the easiest way for you to keep your job.” I was walking still faster, blinking back tears.
I have no doubt that Mr Tejpal was trying to establish his innocence in a devious manner. If he needed to get in touch with his daughter, he could have done so anytime he desired, through his wife or daughter or nephew or anyone from his family without messaging me about her, or falsely claiming that all that happened was ‘a drunken banter’. This was no banter, it was most clearly sexual assault. As a reporter for Tehelka who writes on violence against women, I suddenly find myself in the horrific situation of discovering what it is like to be on the receiving end of this violence from a powerful man I once deeply admired and respected. I truly hope that the idea of Tehelka is still intact – and that you will conduct an inquiry into this matter at the earliest.
1.As an anti-corruption activist and on behalf of the Delhi Pradesh BJP I am addressing this Press Conference to enthusiastically support the cleanest and most experienced candidate for the CM of Delhi, Mr. Harshvardan, the former State Minister of Health.
2.The Congress Party which is presently wallowing in cesspool of corruption is shocked by his unanimous choice for CM candidate.
3.Lacking necessary credentials to counter with a corruption free name, the Congress high command seems to have entered into an unholy agreement with the AAM AADMI Party[AAP} Chief Mr. ArvindKejriwal to do its work for countering Mr. Harshvardan’s impeccable credentials during the electioneering after the date of scrutiny of nominations.
4.But Mr. Kejriwal’s moment of truth is at hand. He represents a motley crowd of anti-nationals, sleazeballs, and financial manipulators.
5.This crowd is attracted by AAP as yet camouflaged ideology. It therefore attracts anti-nationals such as those who want to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan, espouse the cause of Maoists and Naxalites, and pander to rabid Muslim fundamentalists such as MaulanaTauqirRaza who had announced a Rs 5 lakh cash prize to anyone who would behead a defenceless woman called TaslimaNasreen, not to mention Rs 1 crore for assassinating the US President George Bush.
6. Mr. Kejriwal claim to fight corruption is limited to addressing press conferences. This is called the shoot and scoot strategy. In the Vadra case all the material he presented were already in the publicly domain. But in his press conference re-disclosing the same he specifically said that he found no wrong doing by either Ms. Sonia Gandhi or PriyankaVadra. That is Vadra is an independent power centre, which is laughable.
7.Mr. Kejriwal has failed to answer the allegations of financial donations from the very sources which he condemns. These allegations that have been published for example in Mail Today of November 4, 2010 and recently in Economic Times require for the sake of transparency in public life to be fully answered by him.
8.It is apparent that the AAP has no presence of experienced workers at the booth level. Hence the party will find it difficult to open its account in the Assembly elections. The Congress Party which has emerged as a defacto patron of the AAP is habituated to ditching allies when convenient politically , and that is what we will witness four days before the polling date.
9.Hence, I urge all those who want a clean Delhi Administration to back Mr. Harshvardan and give the BJP a sizeable majority in the new Assembly.