Former Union Minister M J Akbar denied before a Delhi court Saturday the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made against him by journalist Priya Ramani, and stated that her tweets had “affected” his “reputation very negatively”, and that her language was “deeply offensive”.
Following the allegations posted on Twitter by Ramani in October 2018, Akbar had to resign from his position in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
During his cross-examination, the BJP leader submitted before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that the allegations had “affected” his “public reputation” as well as his “standing within family and friends”.
Akbar was accompanied by a battery of lawyers including senior counsel Geeta Luthra, and advocates Sandeep Kapur, Veer Sandhu and Shivani Luthra Lohiya. He deposed that the series of tweets by Ramani was a “curious anomaly”, which deviated from “the original article in Vogue”, as it did “not contain my name”.
Ramani’s legal team was headed by senior advocate Rebecca M John, who asked Akbar whether the several ideological u-turns in his career as a politician suggested his political opportunism. Akbar replied that “It is wrong to suggest so”. When asked if he, in 1993, had asked Ramani to meet him at Oberoi hotel in connection with a job, Akbar said, “I do not remember”.
The BJP leader started his deposition with details of his educational qualifications and career until the time he entered politics. Ramani’s tweet, he said, was “deeply offensive, malign, mala fide, in bad faith and a web of fabrication spun out of lies”, and her allegations were false.
“In order to protect my reputation, I sought the justice of this court. In this context, I chose to resign from my position as the Minister of State. Since the allegation had been made in my personal capacity, I decided to seek justice in my personal capacity,” he said.
“I have been harmed by the offensive words used, which were false and which caused irreplaceable damage to my stellar reputation which I had built over the years. My complaint is correct and the allegations against me are false,” Akbar deposed.
The cross-examination will continue on May 20.
Akbar’s deposition came during his cross-examination by counsel for Ramani, who fired questions at the BJP leader in a bid to establish that his defamation complaint was unfounded, and should be dismissed. The process for cross-examination was initiated after Ramani on securing bail, pleaded not guilty and claimed trial in the matter.
Although several women levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against the BJP leader, he filed a defamation lawsuit against Ramani alone. Six individuals who were closely associated with Akbar at both professional and personal levels, have deposed that they were “shocked” and “dismayed” after reading Ramani’s tweets.
Note: An earlier version carried an inaccurate version of what MJ Akbar had said. The error is regretted.