In November 2013, Tejpal was accused by a reporter of sexual assault during Think in Goa

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has ordered journalists, Tarun Tejpal, Anirudh Behl, Mathew Samual and M/S Tehelka.Com, to pay Rs 2 crore as damages to retired Indian Army officer, Major General MS Ahluwalia in a defamation case.

Tehelka had conducted a sting operation in 2001 stating that Ahluwalia was allegedly involved in corruption in the defence deals.

The bench of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna noted that the reputation of the plaintiff has suffered as he not only faced a lowering of estimation in the eyes of the public but his character also got maligned with serious allegations of corruption which no subsequent reputation can redress or heal.

The court also noted that much time has passed and the plaintiff has already lived with ill fame for more than 23 years. Considering the enormity of the nature of defamation, an apology at this stage is not only inadequate but is meaningless.

According to the suit, Tarun Tejpal, the proprietor of the portal, Tehelka.Com, was responsible for managing the release of news items/ articles on the website of Tehelka.Com.

A media blitz was launched on 13.03.2001 carrying a story about the alleged corruption in the defence deals relating to import of new defence equipments.

The story was done and recorded by two Reporters allegedly working undercover by representing themselves on behalf of a fictitious defence equipment Firm based in London keen to introduce new defence equipments in the Indian Army, stated the suit.

The article alleged that Ahluwalia had demanded Rs 10 lakh and a bottle of Blue Label whiskey as a bribe. It further alleged that the officer had accepted a token bribe of Rs 50,000. The plaintiff/Major General through suit claimed that this was done deliberately without ascertaining the true facts.

The allegations were false to the knowledge of the defendant and were intentionally made to destroy and malign the reputation and image of the plaintiff in the general public. In fact, the alleged tape containing the conversation between the Reporter and plaintiff has been tampered with and doctored to manipulate the recording and selective portions had been deleted and editorial comments had been added which were not substantiated by facts.

The Indian Army took serious note of the telecasted video tape and ordered a Court of Inquiry into this issue. The plaintiff was summoned in the Court of Inquiry and his military reputation and honour had been tarnished and put under a cloud of suspicion, stated the suit.