NEW DELHI, Nov 21: The editor of India’s leading investigative news magazine was accused on Thursday of trivialising a serious sex crime after he announced he would take six months’ leave as “penance” for assaulting a woman.

Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor of Tehelka magazine, admitted “misconduct” in an email to the managing editor of the publication and offered to step aside temporarily to atone for his behaviour.

“A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for,” Tejpal wrote in his email which was sent to staff at the magazine on Wednesday.

“I must do penance that lacerates me,” he added.

With the media newly sensitised to sexual assault cases after a string of widely publicised gang-rape cases in India this year, Tejpal’s confession and the magazine’s reaction were front-page news and widely criticised.

“What penance? What atonement? An apology and offer to step down may be his personal way of pitying himself and feeling remorse, but that doesn’t absolve him of his crime,” women’s activist Ranjana Kumari said.

She added that “gross misuse of power, misogyny” was sadly common in Indian workplaces.

Authorities would only investigate the incident at Tehelka if the victim files a police case.

She had reportedly asked for an internal investigation and a written apology to be circulated to staff.

The weekly magazine pioneered undercover sting operations and has published a string of scoops on cricket match-fixing, the involvement of politicians in communal riots in 2002 and bribe-taking.

Lately it has reported forcefully on gender inequality in India, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitude of many Indian men.—AFP