Former Union minister M J Akbar’s reputation was “dragged through the mud” by the tweets and articles of journalist Priya Ramani, Veenu Sandal, journalist, tarot card reader and a former colleague of Akbar, said in her deposition before a Delhi on Friday.
Sandal is a witness for Akbar in the defamation case filed against Ramani, who had leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against the former editor.
Sandal testified that she wrote columns for The Asian Age between 1994 and 2009 and went to the newspaper’s office during production of her “column pages”.
She stated, “On my regular visits to the office — because I have knowledge of tarot cards and astrology — many colleagues used to narrate their professional, personal and career issues, and confide in me their problems and seek astrology and tarot card-based guidance. In my association with The Asian Age between 1994-95 till 2009, not one individual ever narrated or ever spoke to me (of any such allegation).”
Sandal and another witness, Sunil Gujral, a businessman, deposed before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal in support of the defamation case filed by Akbar.
Sandal said that Ramani’s allegations came as a shock to her, and that they caused “irreparable damage” to Akbar’s reputation.
Akbar resigned as a Union minister on October 17 and filed a defamation complaint against Ramani, who, in an article published in the magazine Vogue India, had indicated that the former editor had sexually harassed her without naming him. On October 8, Ramani named Akbar in a tweet: “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.” Several former colleagues of Akbar subsequently made allegations of sexual harassment against him.
Gujral in his deposition stated that he knew Akbar since 1980 and had worked with him for three years. “In my capacity as a colleague and a friend, (I had) never heard even a whisper regarding his misconduct or misbehaviour of any kind. I found be (had) always been most respectful to all people…”
Earlier, Joyeeta Basu, editor of The Sunday Guardian, appeared as a witness and told the court that Ramani published her tweets “intentionally with a purpose to harm” Akbar’s “reputation and goodwill in the eyes of society”.
The court will hear the case next on January 11.