The hearing in the defamation case filed against Priya Ramani by editor-turned-politician M J Akbar resumed on Monday at the court of the additional chief Metropolitan Magistrate with two witnesses testifying in favour of the former minister.
Akbar had resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs after Ramani accused him of sexual harassment when she worked under him at the Asian Age newspaper. Ramani had pleaded not guilty in the case filed by Akbar last October. Senior Advocate Rebecca John was counsel for Priya Ramani while Akbar case was taken up by Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra and Advocate Sandeep Kapur.
A synopsis of today’s cross examination:
I started writing for Asian Age in 94 or 95
I wrote two columns one of the columns was on astrology and tarot cards
Till when did you write these column
I got to know Mr Akbar when I started writing for Asian Age and wrote the columns till 2009.
After that what other publication
I was writing for several publications but with regards to Mr Akbar I was writing for Covert and Sunday Guardian
What was your interaction
While I was writing the columns I was going regularly to the Asian Age office to have the pages made for my columns and because I had knowledge of astrology and tarot card many of my colleague often brought personal. Professional l and career based issue to seek guidance. From time to time Mr. Akbar offered suggestions on how to improve these columns for readers.
What did you see in the course of interaction with colleagues?
Not once did anybody or anyone mention, Satbir even hint Tanmay inappropriate behaviour from Akbar
How have you found Mr. Akbar?
I have held Akbar in high esteem and I have always admired him at several levels these included him being an without acclaimed globally for his scholarly work, as an editor who transformed face of journalism, a journalist whose analysis was extremely incisive particularly in political matters. At a personal level to I had great respect for him because he had many qualities. Simply by observing him both within the office and about.
(Akbar’s Counsel) Luthra – Do you know about the tweet of Ramani?
Witness: On October 8 I heard in news about the tweet and the article she had written. I then checked online and read both the tweet and the article.
Luthra – What was your reaction on the news and the tweets?
I was shocked and it came as a huge jolt to me especially when Ramani called Akbar a predator and the other revelation she had made, I was deeply depressed
Luthra – What did you think of his image?
His image in my eyes fell and his entire persona before my eyes was dented.
All these embarrassing situations made me realize that his image has had been dented not only in my eyes but also in the eyes of the others.
His reputation had been damaged
Subsequently my husband and I thought of something before but since he was out of the country so I could not check and question him about these allegations.
Did you check on him?
After he returned I spoke to him and told him how let down I was feeling and how every second person was asking questions about it which were very difficult to answer for me.
When I spoke to him he said there was no truth in these allegations made by Ramani. He also told me that I had known him for so many years so I could think for myself whether he was alleged to have done
What did you think after he said so?
After due deliberations I realised what I had originally thought indeed I had never on any occasion where there was a wide cross section of people also, could have said or hinted something inappropriate about him
There was not a thing that was even remotely similar or connected to the allegations of Ramani.
Have you met Priya Ramani?
I have never met Ramani
I had not read anything prior to reading Ramani tweet about any allegation against. Akbar by any other woman
At the time of Ramani’s tweet, I did not read any other tweet
Subsequently, I heard about the other allegations but didn’t read any.
It is incorrect to say that I had read any other tweet or article by any other woman alleging sexual misconduct.
John – You said you worked at Asian Age from 1995 to long period, did you interact with journalist like Prerna Singh Dhingra, Gazala, Shuma Raha and Harinder Vahab and Kadambari Begh
I interacted professionally with Miss Gazala Wahab during my tenure at Asian Age and not with any other above mentioned journalist.
John – Were you made aware about Ghazala Wahab’s allegations on Akbar
I do not know that Miss Ghazala wrote in the “The Wire” or not but I was made aware that she had written an article about Akbar in which she had also mentioned about my name
Did you deem it necessary to talk to her
I did not deem it necessary to confront her or talk to her about the said allegations because I knew there was no truth in those allegations.
John – When did you speak to Akbar about the allegations by Ramani
I spoke to Akbar on his return from Africa i.e. October 14, 2018. I spoke to him several times that day on the phone.
It was definitely post lunch.
It is incorrect to suggest that I had several conversations with Akbar through the day.
John – Are you aware that Akbar filed complaint
I am not aware of the date of filing of complaint but I know he filed such complaint.
You have stated that Akbar made suggestions about improving
It is incorrect to suggest that I deliberately introduced the aforementioned quoted sections on advice in order to improve my evidence.
It is further incorrect to suggest that I have selectively and deliberately given evidence against Ramani even though I was aware of allegations made by other women.
It is incorrect to suggest that friends family anf others whom I met publicly ask me question about allegations by Ramani.
It is incorrect to suggest that I introduced these facts to fulfill the legal requirement of this case.
It is incorrect to suggest that I had disposed in favour of Akbar because I benefited from my association with him.
Among other things, this article was written in context of MeToo movement and
It was not in the context of MeToo movement it was just about things which were boling
It is correct that among other things this article was written in context of MeToo movement and other contention in context of ghost.
This article among other things is in context to the ghost but there is mentioning of MeToo and Brexit in the introductory paragraph
Have you written this article ‘Humans during Days Snakes by night’
It is correct.
Q- Is it correct that in your column in the Sunday guardian, you frequently write about ghosts, spirit and supernatural things and communicating with the dead
W- I don’t write about them frequently, I write about them always because this column is called is other world and my brief given to me by the Sunday Guardian is to write about paranormal activities which includes the supernatural.
It is incorrect to suggest that I have falsely stated that I have stated that no one ever spoke to me about inappropriate behaviour by Akbar
Some of the friends, who spoke to me about Akbar, also referred to also discuss the allegations made by other women in other tweets and articles by Akbar. It is incorrect to suggest that I am a biased and tutored witness
—India Legal Bureau