PANAJI: A leading Indian editor charged with raping a colleague insisted on Tuesday he was innocent, after a court deferred his plea for bail in the case, which has dominated local media.
Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor of top investigative magazine Tehelka, has been in custody since his arrest in late November over the alleged incident in a hotel lift in the southern state of Goa.
On Monday Tejpal was charged with a series of offenses including sexual harassment, outraging modesty and rape, in one of the highest-profile cases since India toughened its rape laws last year.
“The charge sheet against me is out of political vendetta. I am innocent,” the 50-year old told reporters outside the court in Goa’s capital Panaji, after his bail hearing was deferred until March 4 and he was taken back into custody.
“The truth is in the CCTV footage and it will be known to the world,” he said, dressed in a white Indian kurta (tunic) for his court appearance, at which his family members were also present.
The woman, who has quit the magazine since the scandal broke and who cannot be named for legal reasons, has told police she was molested twice in the lift during a magazine-sponsored event in the state.
The case made front-page news in India for days, at a time when sexual assault was under the spotlight following the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012, which sparked widespread protests.
The magazine has reported forcefully on gender inequality in India recently, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitudes of many Indian men.
It has been accused of hypocrisy and trying to cover up a serious crime after magazine staff were sent an e-mail saying Tejpal was stepping down for six months for “misconduct.”
Police say their investigation gathered CCTV footage showing the pair entering the elevator — although there was no camera inside it — and other evidence including e-mail and SMS exchanges between them.
Investigating officer Sunita Sawant filed a 2,684-page charge sheet before the court on Monday, saying there was enough evidence to prove the charges.
Police said they also sought on Monday a fast-track trial that could be completed within 60 days.