Indian magazine Tehelka chief quits over handling of sex case

Indian founder and editor of Tehelka magazine Tarun Tejpal (above) talks to an audience during the Kathmandu Literary Jatra in Kathmandu on Sept 16, 2011. Ms Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor of Indian investigative magazine Tehelka, quit on Thurs
Indian founder and editor of Tehelka magazine Tarun Tejpal (above) talks to an audience during the Kathmandu Literary Jatra in Kathmandu on Sept 16, 2011. Ms Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor of Indian investigative magazine Tehelka, quit on Thursday after coming under fire over her handling of allegations that the publication's founder sexually assaulted a reporter. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The managing editor of Indian investigative magazine Tehelka quit Thursday after coming under fire over her handling of allegations that the publication's founder sexually assaulted a reporter.

In an email to staff, Ms Shoma Chaudhury denied being part of a "cover-up" to protect Tehelka's founder and editor Mr Tarun Tejpal who is under investigation over claims he sexually assaulted the woman twice in a hotel in the holiday state of Goa.

However Ms Chaudhury, who announced last week that Mr Tejpal was standing aside for six months over what he has described as "a bad lapse of judgement", acknowledged that "she could have done many things differently".

The alleged victim, who has since resigned from the English-language monthly magazine, first made the allegations against Mr Tejpal in a detailed email to Chaudhury.

"As a result of what's transpired over the past few days my integrity has repeatedly been questioned by people from our fraternity and, in fact, by the public at large," Ms Chaudhury wrote in her mail which has been seen by AFP.

"I do not want questions raised about my integrity to tarnish the image of Tehelka, which it has done in the past week. Therefore, I resign as Managing Editor with immediate effect," she added.

Scores of supporters from India's opposition BJP party, which regards the magazine as biased, held a noisy protest outside Ms Chaudhury's home and demanded her arrest.

"She did not stand up in support of her woman colleague and for the past one week she has been trying to suppress the complaint and facts in the case," shouted senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly.

He squirted paint outside her gate and defaced her nameplate, replacing her name with the word "accused" which was painted in black.

Police escorted Ms Chaudhury away as the protesters tried to enter her home, leading former BJP president Nikhil Gadkari to try to distance the party from the protest amid criticism in the local media. "You may escape today but young men and women of Delhi will get you," warned Mr Jolly.

Ms Chaudhury's resignation comes three days after the alleged victim also quit the magazine, saying she had come under pressure from Mr Tejpal's family to drop her allegations.

Mr Tejpal, 50, who was due to be questioned by Goa police Thursday, said he would reach the western Indian state only Saturday, an officer said in state capital Panaji.

The resort state police said they would announce their next course of action in a news conference later Thursday.

Tehelka has garnered a reputation for hard-hitting investigations on corruption as well as sexual violence against women and gender inequality, and was hailed for its reporting of a deadly gang-rape in New Delhi last December. The Tehelka scandal has dominated the Indian news agenda for the last week, with rivals accusing the magazine of hypocrisy.