After MJ Akbar’s first witness, journalist Veenu Sandal deposed in front of the district court in New Delhi on July 15, today two of his other witnesses including the then publisher for The Asian Age, Tapan Chaki and printer publisher of Sunday Guardian, Sunil Gujral were cross-examined by Priya Ramani’s counsel Rebecca John. Tapan Chaki was the publisher of The Asian Age during the time former journalist Akbar was an editor in the organisation. All of his witnesses so far have stated that it was only Priya Ramani’s tweets alleging sexual misconduct by Akbar when she worked with him in the early 90s that had tarnished his image and affected his ‘impeccable reputation’.

While Chaki said, “I was extremely shocked and shattered on reading the tweets by Priya Ramani,” Gujral deposed, “I have seen and read the tweets and the publication by Ms Priya Ramani. It was embarrassing for me and it tarnished the image of Mr Akbar.” Earlier, Veenu Sandal had said, “I was shocked and it came as a huge jolt to me especially that Ms Priya Ramani had called Mr Akbar a predator and the other revelations she had made in her article. I was deeply distressed that someone I had placed on a pedestal could be what was alleged.”

“I was shocked and it came as a huge jolt to me especially that Ms Priya Ramani had called Mr Akbar a predator and the other revelations she had made in her article. I was deeply distressed that someone I had placed on a pedestal could be what was alleged.”

Interestingly, while a total of 13 women have accused the former minister of state, foreign affairs, Akbar, of sexual harassment at the workplace including an allegation of rape, none of these tweets made any impact on the witnesses. In fact, when Ramani’s advocate John cross-examined them about whether they read any other tweets apart from Ramani’s, Chaki responded, “I did not read any tweet or article that was published by other women alleging sexual misconduct on part of Mr. Akbar. However, I was informed of the same.” Similarly, Gujral said, “I did not read any tweet or publication by the above-named women about the allegations of sexual misconduct relating to Mr Akbar.”

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“In my interaction with my friends, acquaintances and business associates, the allegations by other women were not brought to my knowledge,” Gujral added.

According to them, what damaged his reputation was only Ramani’s allegations that she made against him without naming him in a Vogue article in 2017 and the subsequent tweet she made uncovering the anonymity around his name in that article in October 2018.

Apart from Ramani, many other women including UK-based journalist Ruth David, CNN scribe Majlie De Puy Kamp, political journalist Saba Naqvi, Ghazala Wahab, Kanika Gahlaut, Suparna Sharma, Prerna Singh Bindra, Kadambari Wade, Pallavi Gogoi, and Harinder Baweja also alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar in tweets and several articles. However, the witnesses brought in by the erstwhile editor did not read any of those accounts and were merely made aware of them. According to them, what damaged his reputation was only Ramani’s allegations that she made against him without naming him in a Vogue article in 2017 and the subsequent tweet she made uncovering the anonymity around his name in that article in October 2018.

Ramani’s tweets opened the floodgate of #Metoo allegations against Akbar. Soon after her tweet, several women accused him of similar accounts of inappropriate behaviour. These allegations continued up until November last year when Gogoi accused Akbar of rape in a Washington Post article which he responded to say that it was a relationship gone wrong.

Also read: #MeToo: MJ Akbar Cross-examination, “I Don’t Remember”

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