Journalist Priya Ramani’s friend told a Delhi court on Friday that the details of former Union minister M J Akbar’s alleged sexual harassment were “so bizarre and inappropriate that I have a picture of it in my mind to this day”.
Niloufer Venkatraman made her submissions before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal while deposing as a witness in Ramani’s defence in connection with a criminal defamation case filed by Akbar. Ramani had last year levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against Akbar, who subsequently resigned from the Union cabinet and filed the defamation case.
Ramani’s cross-examination was also supposed to take place on Friday. Akbar’s counsel Geeta Luthra requested for another date, as she wanted to cross-examine Ramani after Venkatraman’s cross-examination.
ACMM Vishal said, “They keep taking adjournments after adjournments because they are not prepared,” and set November 6 as the next date of hearing.
Earlier on Friday, Venkatraman told the court about Ramani’s job interview with Akbar at Oberoi hotel. She said later that evening, Ramani called her on the landline number and sounded “upset and distraught”.
“I recall that she went on to describe the extremely uncomfortable details of what had happened a few hours earlier. She described feeling extremely uncomfortable as he offered her an alcoholic drink and was having a drink himself. She also described him singing old Hindi film songs to her, which sounded most unprofessional at one point… The details she described were so bizarre and inappropriate that I have a picture of it in my mind to this day,” Venkatraman told the court.
Luthra objected to her statement and told the court, “She has come as a material witness in that alleged meeting. She was the third ghost in the hotel.”
Continuing with her statement, Venkatraman said that she had a discussion with Ramani about whether she should take the job offer. “She asked me what I thought and I said that she should take it. In hindsight, I can see that it was inexperience and naivety with which I said that. Priya also confided in me that she was not going to tell her parents the uncomfortable details of the interview as it would upset them,” she said.
Venkatraman also told the court that she came to know about Ramani’s allegations after she read her tweet, and messaged her. Ramani had replied with heart emojis.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines