New Delhi: The cross-examination of former Union minister M J Akbar concluded Saturday before a Delhi court in a criminal defamation case filed by him against scribe Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct in #MeToo campaign.
During his cross-examination by senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, Akbar was questioned about the allegations made by other women journalists who had also accused him of sexual misconduct while they were working with him.
While he termed as "misunderstanding” the allegations made by Majlie De Puy Kamp, who worked with him as an intern, Akbar said he was not aware of an article written by his former colleague Ruth David accusing him of sexual harassment.
"I am not aware nor have I read any articles written by Ruth David recounting instances of sexual misconduct on my part. If any article is written, the allegations are denied," he told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.
Akbar, who had resigned as minister on October 17 last year following the allegations levelled during the campaign, said that prior to filing the complaint against Ramani, he was aware that several other women had made allegations against him but he did not file any complaint of defamation against any other person, international or Indian publication.
However, he said he was not selective in filing this complaint against Ramani in order to target her. He said that Ramani's tweets used language that was deeply offensive, maligning, in bad faith, and a web of fabrication spun out of the lies. He also said the allegations in Ramani's articles were false.
The court will now take up the matter on July 15. Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.
Ramani accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. He has denied the accusations. Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in the article in Vogue and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary.
He had told the court in his statement that an “immediate damage” has been caused to him due to the scurrilous, concocted and false allegations of sexual misconduct.
Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist. Akbar has termed the allegations “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.
M J Akbar also stated it was wrong to suggest the articles and tweets of journalist Priya Ramani were meant to raise awareness regarding the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.
"It is wrong to suggest that the articles and tweets of Priya Ramani were meant to raise awareness of pervasiveness of the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace," he said.
He added, "It is also wrong to suggest that Ramani's disclosures in her tweets and articles relating to him were true and made in good faith for public interest and for public good."
Claiming that he had no intention to target Ramani by filing a defamation case in the matter against her, he said, "It is wrong to say that present complaint I filed is false and without merit and that I have been selective in filing this complaint against Priya Ramani in order to target her."
"I worked with a journalist Pallavi Gogoi in 1994 at Asian Age. I was made aware of an article Mark-M written by Pallavi Gogoi in the Washington Post dated 01.11.2018. But I deny all those allegations. It is a matter of public record that on 02.11.2018, I released a statement to ANI in relation to the allegations made by Pallavi Gogoi. It is correct that my wife has also released a statement to ANI from portion A to A on 02.11.2018," Akbar said in response to a question put forth by Ramani's counsel, senior advocate Rebecca John.
The court has posted the matter for cross-examination of Akbar's witness for July 15 and 17.
Ramani had on April 10 pleaded not guilty before the court and claimed trial after the court framed defamation charges against her on a criminal complaint of Akbar.
In one of the past hearings, the ACMM had also granted a permanent exemption to Ramani from personal appearance in the hearings to follow.
In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. She was the first woman to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign.
Akbar had filed a defamation case against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct. The allegations levelled against him forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018....