A former woman colleague of journalist-turned-politician M J Akbar told a Delhi court Monday that his reputation has been “destroyed” and “damaged irreparably” due to allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him by journalist Priya Ramani.
Joyeeta Basu, the editor of The Sunday Guardian, who appeared as a witness to support defamation case filed by Akbar, told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that Ramani published her tweets “intentionally with a purpose to harm” Akbar’s “reputation and goodwill in the eyes of society”. She also called Akbar a “thorough professional” and “gentleman”.
Akbar had resigned as a Union minister on October 17 and filed a defamation complaint against Ramani, who in an article published in lifestyle magazine Vogue India had accused him of sexual harassment, but not named him. On October 8, Ramani first named Akbar in a Twitter post.
“I began this piece with my M J Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse story about this predator — maybe they’ll share,” she wrote on Twitter.
After Akbar filed the defamation complaint, Ramani said that she was “ready to fight allegations of defamation made against me, as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence”. She also claimed that Akbar “seeks to silence” women through “intimidation and harassment”.
On Monday, Basu began her testimony by establishing her credentials and association with Akbar, and said that she had always “held Mr Akbar in high regard”, who has been “perfectly professional and thorough gentleman” in “dealings” with her.
“He (Akbar) has always been a tough task master, a thorough professional and a brilliant teacher, who taught me all aspects of newspaper journalism…I always considered him to be brilliant journalist, scholarly writer, and thorough gentleman with an impeccable reputation,” Basu said.
She also said she has worked with Akbar for 20 years and had not heard anything “untoward” from the staff of the organisation where they worked together.
“I was shocked, disappointed, embarrassed (and) inspite of my experience with him I felt his reputation, his image took a beating in my eyes on reading the tweet/article,” Basu said.
“It was aggravated during my interaction with friends and colleagues, who had read the widely publicised tweet and articles and asked me whether he was like that. They questioned his character and said that his image has taken a severe beating and has been lowered in their eyes. They said that his reputation had been permanently damaged,” she said.
Basu added that after she reasoned with herself and thought “should (I) believe the aspersions cast on him, which I had believed momentarily on October 8, but which, on introspection, I realised were misplaced and unfounded as my experience over the past two decades had shown him to be a perfect gentlemen… I felt the need to defend him.”
Basu said she felt Akbar’s reputation has been “damaged and destroyed irreparably”.