Two witnesses appearing in support of the criminal defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar told a Delhi court on Wednesday that they were not aware of allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by other women and were aware only of those made by journalist Priya Ramani.
They also told the court that they were not deposing in the present case due to their personal, professional and financial relationship with Akbar.
Sunil Gujral, a businessman and Akbar’s neighbour and family friend in Kolkata, and Tapan Chaki, a corporate communications consultant based in Kolkata, deposed before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.
Akbar had resigned as a minister last year after journalist Priya Ramani leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against him. He subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit against her.
Ramani’s counsel Rebecca John asked Gujral whether he was aware that Akbar, in his affidavit before his election to Rajya Sabha, had declared that he took a loan of Rs 5 lakh from Gujral.
The question was objected to by Akbar’s counsel Geeta Luthra, who said, “The documents pertain to another person and have not been executed by the witness himself.” ACMM Samar Vishal said the objection will be decided at the time of judgment.
Replying to John’s question, Gujral replied, “I do not remember. I may have given it.”
John also asked Gujral if it was correct that Akbar or his family members have a property in Eastern Avenue, Maharani Bagh, which is close to his home. Gujral replied in the affirmative.
Gujral also told the court that he knew Akbar in a personal capacity, and their professional relations started only in 2010.
John put forward names of 10 journalists who have tweeted and written articles on allegations about Akbar’s sexual misconduct, to which Gujral said, “In my interaction with my friends, acquaintances and business associates, allegations other than those made by Ramani were not brought to my knowledge.”
During his cross-examination, Chaki said he had not read any such tweet or article. “However, I am informed of the same,” he said. “My friends and associates who spoke to me about Ramani’s tweets/publications did not speak to me about the tweets/publications of other women.”