Police bar top Indian editor from leaving country over sex assault

PANAJI (AFP) - The prominent editor of a leading Indian investigative news magazine has been banned from leaving the country following a sexual assault scandal, police officials said Tuesday.

Police have begun investigating Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal after an young journalist on the magazine claimed he sexually assaulted her twice in a hotel in the holiday state of Goa during a seminar organised by the publication last month.

"The immigration check post alert has been issued ... as a precautionary measure so that the accused in this case does not leave the country," O.P. Mishra, a senior Goa police official, told reporters.

Tehelka, which pioneered undercover sting operations in India, has been embroiled in the scandal since last week when it was leaked that Mr Tejpal had offered to take six months' leave for "misconduct".

In an email to staff, Mr Tejpal admitted that "a bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for".

In a pre-trial bail application the editor said the victim's complaint was "clearly motivated, false and an afterthought". But the application was rejected Tuesday by the Delhi High Court.

The victim quit the New Delhi-based magazine Monday, saying she was "deeply traumatised by the lack of support offered by the organisation".

About five other Tehelka employees have also quit the New Delhi-based magazine since last week.

Mr Tejpal, 50, is the founding editor of Tehelka, known for its hard-hitting investigations into sexual violence against women and gender inequality, as well as into corruption and other lawbreaking.

With the media newly sensitised to sexual assault crimes after a string of widely publicised cases of gang-rape this year, the incident has been front-page news and the magazine has been accused of hypocrisy.

The fatal gang-rape of a student on a New Delhi bus last December sparked sometimes violent protests and a long period of soul-searching about the treatment of women in India and the rising crime against them.