The cross-examination of MJ Akbar, former minister of state for external affairs, concluded on Saturday (July 6) before a Delhi court in a criminal defamation case filed by him against scribe Priya Ramani, who had accused him of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo campaign.
During the cross-examination by senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, Akbar was questioned about the allegations made by other women journalists who had also accused him of sexual misconduct while they were working with him. He termed the allegations made by Majlie De Puy Kamp, who worked with him as an intern, as a “misunderstanding”.
Akbar also said that he was not aware of an article written by his former colleague Ruth David accusing him of sexual harassment. “I am not aware nor have I read any articles written by Ruth David recounting instances of sexual misconduct on my part. If any article is written, the allegations are denied,” he told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.
Akbar had resigned as minister on October 17 last year following the allegations levelled during the campaign. He said that, prior to filing the complaint against Ramani, he was aware that several other women had made allegations against him but he did not file any complaint of defamation against any other person belonging to any international or Indian publication.
However, he said that he was not selective in filing this complaint against Ramani in order to target her. He stated that Ramani’s tweets used language that was deeply offensive and maligning, were in bad faith, and was a web of fabrication spun out of lies. He also said that the allegations in Ramani’s articles were false.
The court will now take up the matter on July 15. Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India. Ramani accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. He has denied the accusations.
Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations against him in the article in Vogue and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it, as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary.
He had told the court in his statement that an “immediate damage” has been caused to him due to the scurrilous, concocted, and false allegations of sexual misconduct. Many women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist.
Akbar has termed the allegations “false, fabricated, and deeply distressing” and said that he was taking appropriate legal action against them.