The hearing in the defamation case filed against Priya Ramani by editor-turned-politician M J Akbar resumed on Wednesday at the court of the additional chief Metropolitan Magistrate with two more witnesses testifying in favour of the former minister. The two are Tapan Chaki and Sunil Gujral, both long term friendsd and associates 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:
Today: Geeta Luthra’s chief of Tapan Chacki
Q. Tell us about yourself and your relation with Mr. Akbar
A. I am a corporate comm consultant based in Kolkata and have known Mr. Akbar for more than 30 years. I have always been interested in Journalism and I used to contribute to the Statesman and the Junior Statesman. So when he became the editor of Onlooker, based out of Bombay I used to contribute articles and used to send from Calcutta to Bombay. There after he joined Anand Bazaar based in Calcutta and he took over as editor of Sunday Magazine and I used to write for Sunday and then he started the Telegraph and I would write a weekly sports column for telegraph which continued for several year.
Q. What is your view of Akbar
A. I had the highest regard for Mr. Akbar both as a man as a journalist. So much so that when he launched the Asian Age I took the franchise in Mumbai and was also the editor in all its three editions Bombay, Delhi and London.
Q. How was your interaction with people around him.
A. He was highly regarded for his writing skill, administrative skill and as a person he would get along very well with friends and colleagues
Q. Was he exacting
A. He was exacting as an editor. He was very demanding when it came to the copy and the schedules and had uncanny sense of what constitutes news.
Q.Have you seen the tweets and publication
A. I have seen and read the tweets and publications posted by Priya Ramani
Q. What was your reaction when
A. I was shocked and shattered on reading the said tweets and publications
Q. Why were you shocked
A.Because I have known. Akbar all these years and there was never any occasion when any one mentioned anything remotely resembling such allegations
Q. What kind of reputation did he had
A. Impeccable reputation
Q. Have these tweets and publications affected his reputation
A. Yes these tweets and publications have caused enormous damage to the reputation build up over the years
Q. Have any friend said anything to you
A. Yes I received phone calls and had direct conversations with friends and acquaintances who told me
Q. What was their reaction
A. They were as shocked
Q. Did it damage his reputation in the public eye
A. It damaged his reputation immensely amongst the eyes of the public.
Q. According to your estimation did it damage his reputation
A. Yes in my estimation it affected his reputation adversely
Rebecca John’s cross
Q. Tenure at Asian Age
A. To the best of my recollection I remained the publisher of the Asian Age from 1982 for a period of about 7 years
Q. Have you met Ms. Ramani
A. I have never met Ms. Priya Ramani
Q. Have you met during your tenure or other wise Harendra Baweja, Ghazala Wahab, Prerna Bindra Ruth David Pallavi Gogoi Suparna Sharma Swati Gautam Majlide Kamp and Khushita Patel
A. I have had no occasion to interact with these people
Q. Can you confirm that they worked for Asian Age
A. I cannot even confirm whether they worked for the Asian Age or not
Q. Did you read the tweets and publications
A. I did not read any tweet or article that was published by other women alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Akbar however I was informed of them
Q. Did your friends speak about other tweet
A. My friends and associates who spoke to.me about Ms. Ramani tweet did not speak to.me about the tweet of other women
Q. Were you associates with India Today
A. It is correct that I was not associated with India Today at the time when Mr. Akbar was it’s editor
Q. He was highly regarded……What is news
A. It is correct that I had made a statement before the Hon’ble court on 11th Jan 2019 and I have stated them in a different language
Q. I have known…..Allegation have not been made in the previous statement. and they were surprise……..unbelievable
A. At this stage the witness is show his previous statement and is asked sheher he has mentioned it in his earlier statement. The witness replies that he had stated. The witness is contradicted with his earlier statement which is that he has not said it in the same manner. Again the witness his shown his earlier statement and witness replies as (part of earlier statement)
Witness – Sunil Gujral
Cross Examination by Geeta Luthra
Did my schooling from Modern School and graduation from DU
Currently I am a businessman
I moved to Calcutta in 1980 to establish my business and there I met Mr. Akbar as neigbour
My interaction started as being a neighbour and then our wives and children started interacting and slowly we became good family friends.
In the early 90s I moved back to Delhi and in 2010 when Mr. Akbar was starting the Sunday Guardian he asked me to assist him in the administrative side of the newspaper.
I was the printer publisher of Sunday Guardian for about three years.
I found Mr. Akbar a perfect gentleman holding a good reputation in the society and in the forum of journalist and as an author.
At the time I met him he was the editor of Sunday Magazine which was a publication of Ananda Bazar in Calcutta.
In my capacity as a neighbour colleague and friend I have never heard anything against him or negative about him. I found him a hard working man keeping long working hours and travelling for political stories.
His reputation in the society was impeccable.
I have seen and read the tweets and publications
It was embarrassing for me and it had tarnished the image of Mr. Akbar in my eyes and a lot of other people I know.
Somebody sent me the tweet over Whatsapp and that is how I read the tweet
A lot of people who are our friend and acquaintance started contacting me to understand what was happening and what he was doing as it came as a surprise to them.
I have known Mr. Akbar for 40 years. Most of these people knew of my association with Mr. Akbar.
Rebecca John Cross Exam
In Calcutta I knew Mr. Akbar in my personal capacity and my professional relationship with Mr. Akbar started in 2010.
It is correct that Mr. Akbar / family has a property bearing number 6 Eastern Avenue second floor maharani bagh new delhi which is close to my house.
I do not remember whether I extend a personal loan to Mr. Akbar around 2015.
Q. I put it to you that in the affidavit filed by Mr. Akbar with the EC prior to the elections in the Rajya Sabha he had declared that he had taken a loan of Rs. 500000 from you. (Objected on the ground that the contents of a document cannot be put and that a document pertains to another person not executed by witness) (will be decided at the time of judgment)
A. I do not remember. I may have given it
Have you met during your tenure or other wise Harendra Baweja, Ghazala Wahab, Prerna Bindra Ruth David Pallavi Gogoi Suparna Sharma Swati Gautam Majlide Kamp and Khushita Patel
I have had no occasion to meet anyone
I did not read any tweet or article by the above mentioned person relating to Mr. Akbar
I my interactions with friends business associates these allegations, tweets and publications by other people were not brought to my knowledge.
Hearing will resume on August 2
–India Legal Bureau