Congress leader Manish Tewari and Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi were involved in a war of words on Twitter on Friday after the former stated that Tehelka magazine founder-editor Tarun Tejpal was “honourably exonerated” in a sexual assault case recently, with Chaturvedi terming the remarks “shameful”.
It started with Tewari praising Tejpal in a tweet, saying, “My college senior the much maligned, hugely politically persecuted & now honourably exonerated the brilliant & mercurial Tarun Tejpal has written this teaser of his new book Animal Farm. Tarun at his evocative & provocative best. Welcome back friend.”
This drew a sharp response from Chaturvedi who, on a sarcastic note, said, “Today I got to know that Tarun Tejpal was ‘honorably exonerated’ and ‘politically persecuted’.”
“To rubbish a woman’s sexual assault by this cosy club smacks of their sick mindset,” the Rajya Sabha MP lashed out at Tewari.
“They believe they can behave as they wish around women and laugh off the serious crime. Shameful,” she tweeted.
Hitting back at Chaturvedi, Tewari said unlike her, as a lawyer, he knows how to read a judgment and respect it.
“Tarun Tejpal was tried and found innocent. That is the cold hard fact. Goa Government has gone to High Court. If you have a problem say what you have to in the High Court of Mumbai & Goa,” he said.
Responding to the Congress MP, Chaturvedi shot back saying the Goa government has challenged this district court verdict in the High Court and so the “celebration” over his ‘exoneration’ can be put on hold.
“More power to the young lady who had the courage to take such powerful clique head on,” Chaturvedi said.
“Unlike you Manish Tewari just being a lawyer and ability to read a judgement does not put you on a higher plain. Also this is a free platform I have a right to opinion as much as you have a right to pat the back of an alleged rapist,” she tweeted.
Slamming Chaturvedi, Tewari tweeted, “It actually does @priyankac19. It makes me acutely conscious about respecting rule of law & judgments delivered by Courts established under our Constitution.”
“Please do not cross the line of libel & defamation. I would be anguished to take a fellow MP & former Colleague to Court,” he said.
Chaturvedi called Tewari’s remarks a threat to “silence” her and said that as a lawyer he should realise that her first tweet wasn’t even tagged or marked to him, and he “chose to jump in”.
“Ignorance of the law is bliss, ain’t it @priyankac19. The law of libel recognises a slur by implication also Mam,” Tewari shot back.
Chaturvedi slammed Tewari, saying ignorance of law is better than ignorance of morality as for the former, one can hire lawyers; the latter unfortunately can’t be taught and is ingrained.
Responding to tweets criticising his praise for Tejpal, the Congress leader put out “facts”, stating that the Tehelka founder was charged and tried by a court of law and the case went on from 2013 to 2021.
“With multiple appeals to HC & SC. Ultimately a Lady judge found him innocent on all charges & acquitted him. Goa Govt has filed an appeal challenging acquittal,” he said.
“Tarun Tejpal & Tehelka’s political persecution started in 2001 due to Operation West End…. Multiple raids by Law enforcement agencies btwn 2001-04. Bankrupting of Tehelka to silence it forcing it to shut down,” he tweeted.
The Goa government in late May challenged the acquittal by a sessions court of Tejpal in the sexual assault case in the Bombay High Court.
On May 21, a sessions court in Goa had acquitted Tejpal of the charge of sexually assaulting a former woman colleague inside the elevator of a luxury hotel in the state in 2013.
The alleged incident had taken place on November 7, 2013.
Tejpal stepped down as editor-in-chief of Tehelka in the wake of the sexual assault allegations.