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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Journalist says wrong to suggest allegations against MJ Akbar fiction

Akbar had to resign after journalist Priya Ramani levelled allegations of sexual misconduct on Twitter, following which he filed a defamation lawsuit against her.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: December 12, 2019 4:46:37 am
Several women, mostly journalists, claimed they were sexually harassed by M J Akbar during his stint as an editor.

Journalist Ghazala Wahab told a Delhi court on Wednesday that allegations of sexual harassment she made against former Union Minister MJ Akbar were not a work of fiction and that that she did not maliciously concoct a story to damage his reputation.

Akbar had to resign after journalist Priya Ramani levelled allegations of sexual misconduct on Twitter, following which he filed a defamation lawsuit against her. The court has set January 16 for the next date of hearing when final arguments will be addressed.

As Wahab’s cross examination concluded, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja ordered journalists reporting on the case to restrain from making comments on lawyers in the media.

This development happened after Akbar’s counsel Geeta Luthra made an oral complaint about a news report in which allegations were made against members of her team.

Journalist tells court MJ Akbar sexually harassed her: Was numbed with fear

The court ordered, “It has been brought to the attention of this court by the counsel for the complainant that personal comments are being passed about lawyers in media. Without pinpointing anyone from the media it has been conveyed that personal remarks of legal teams should not be made public in future.”

Luthra started the cross examination by asking Wahab, “Are you aware that the IPC has a section for sexual harassment ?” Wahab replied: “I am not aware”. Luthra then asked, “Are you aware that in August 1997, Supreme Court of India pronounced a judgment titled Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan which was widely reported in the newspapers?” Wahab replied that she was aware and was working at The Asian Age at the time.

Wahab was then asked whether she knew that the judgment dealt with sexual harassment at workplace, to which she replied, “I was aware that it is about sexual harassment at the workplace as a news item but I did not know what implications it will have at the workplace.”

She was also asked whether as a journalist she was aware that in 2013 a Bill on sexual harassment at the workplace was introduced, to which she replied that she was aware.

Luthra put forward a slew of suggestions which Wahab denied.

She also denied suggestions that the allegations of sexual harassment by Akbar during her examination in chief were false. “It is wrong to suggest that the details of the events as claimed by me are a work of fiction. It is wrong to suggest that I have maliciously concocted a story to damage complainant’s reputation even though I had left Asian Age in 1998…”

Wahab also denied that she made allegations against Akbar in order to damage his career and also told the court that Akbar had not been doing good work as a Minister for External Affairs.

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