After MJ Akbar’s counsel Geeta Luthra concluded the cross-examination of prime accused Priya Ramani in the defamation case he filed against her, another journalist, Ghazala Wahab came forward today to record her statement in a Delhi court. In the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, Wahab took the stand to share her account starting from her background as the first person in her family to step out of Agra for work 25 years ago.

Luthra interrupted Wahab several times while she was giving details of her life and journey, to which Rebecca John, the lawyer of Ramani, objected to the “continuous rattling of the witness.” Luthra and John had an exchange of words about the relevance of Wahab’s background to her defence. Ultimately, John cited several numbers of times Akbar brought up reputation stating how his reputation has been damaged as a fact in his complaint.

Also read: Priya Ramani’s Friend Takes The Stand In MJ Akbar Defamation Case

“I am entitled to say we contest his reputation that Akbar’s reputation is suspect. I’m entitled to attack his reputation and that is our defence,” said John recorded Surekha Pillai in a tweet thread.

“There are multiple reasons why I’m seeking to produce this witness and it’s not just for contesting reputation. My client’s defence is that me too movement allowed many women to come out with their stories and Ghazala’s is one such story,” John added.

Wahab started by listing out her professional background and publications before the court. She went on to recount that when she joined the Asian Age, she started with reporting to Kaushik Mittal after which she was transferred to the features section where she reported to Poonam Saxena. In the midst of 1996, the office of Asian Age moved from KG Marg to Tolstoy Marg because the former office was getting renovated. When in 1997, they returned to the previous office, only Akbar’s office, Bureau and Features Office was placed on the second floor.

She said that she also reported to Meenal Baghel after Saxena. In the same year, she got promoted as the Sub-Chief Editor in which case, she started to report directly to Akbar. “My desk was placed in such a way, that Akbar could easily see me from his office even when the door was only slightly ajar. Many times while I was working on my computer when I looked up from my screen I found Mr Akbar watching me,” she deposed.

Ghazala remembered that Akbar used to keep the door of his room open, only shutting them during meetings. He also started sending her private messages through Asian Age’s Intranet Messaging Service pertaining to her clothes and appearance.

“In August-September of 1997, Akbar called me to his room. When I went inside, he asked me to shut the door, and then asked me to look up a word in the dictionary which was placed on a low height stool across his desk,” she said adding that the dictionary was kept so down below that she had to squat to get it and when she did, “Akbar came from behind and held her waist.”

“My desk was placed in such a way, that Akbar could easily see me from his office even when the door was only slightly ajar. Many times while I was working on my computer when I looked up from my screen I found Mr Akbar watching me,”

Wahab narrated that while she realised that she should have quit the job at that time, her financial situation did not allow her to. In the same year in December, Akbar proposed that he shift her to Ahmedabad as features editor wherein he said that he would provide her with an apartment. Additionally, he told her that whenever he would come to Ahmedabad, he would stay with her, Wahab claimed. While initially, Wahab didn’t say anything but she resolved within her to not go and quit which she eventually did.

Also read: MJ Akbar’s Witness Rejects Ghazala Wahab’s Account On Stand

She fast-forwarded to 2018 and said, “In Oct 2018 I mustered courage and tweeted saying, wonder when the floodgates would open against @mjakbar. The #MeToomovement enabled me.”

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