Former minister MJ Akbar appeared before the court today to present evidence in the defamation case against Priya Ramani. Akbar, who was represented by Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra, started by detailing his career first as a journalist and then as a politician, culminating as a Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs up until 17 October, 2018. This was Akbar’s first presentation in the case. He spoke about his achievement and he was cross examined by Priya Ramani’s lawyer. The next date of the hearing in May 20th.

WHAT HAPPENED TODAY?

Akbar detailed his motive to file the defamation case against Ramani (done in October 2018). He stated, “There was a curious anomaly. The original article in Vogue did not contain my name. I can infer that this was because the inclusion of my name would have been defamatory. The tweet however referred specifically to me.”

“The tweet used a language that was deeply offensive, malign, mala fide, in bad faith and a web of fabrication spun out of lies,” Akbar added. He told the court that the immediate reaction was, of course, from family and close friends who were profoundly hurt. “Some old colleagues also were extremely upset and only after hearing my version they began to understand the nature of the assault of my reputation.”

“I have been harmed by the offensive words used, which were false and which caused irreplaceable damage to my stellar reputation which I had built over my years,” he said.

As part of his argument to establish his credibility, he narrated his educational qualification and his career timeline.

He went on to say that his books were widely appreciated and translated in various languages. And all this helped in establishing his reputation as a “serious writer”. “I was with Sunday between 1976 and 1983. I edited the Telegraph between 1982 and 1989. I was with the Asian Age between 1993 and perhaps 2006. At the moment, I am privileged to be Member of Parliament from MP,” said Akbar.

“I joined the BJP in 2014 and was appointed National Spokesperson of the party and was included in Ministry of State for External Affairs in 2016.”

ALSO READ: Priya Ramani Pleads “Not Guilty” in MJ Akbar Defamation Case

After his deposition, Senior Advocate Rebecca John who is a counsel of Ramani began cross examining Akbar and asked him questions. Some of those conversations are detailed as follows.

John asked him questions related to his political allegiance to Congress in the earlier phase of his career which he hadn’t mentioned while elaborating on his professional career.

John inferred, “you have made ideological u-turns several times during your career as a politician suggesting your political opportunism.” She then continued to interrogate him regarding his first meeting with Ramani to discuss a job opportunity that Ramani sought back in 1993 when Akbar was about to launch. Senior Advocate John questioned Akbar about him allegedly calling Ramani to his hotel room back then at 7 p.m. to discuss the job role, to which Akbar responded that he does not remember of such an incident.

As Senior Counsel John had just begun to dig deep into cross examining Akbar, his counsel Luthra urged court to adjourn the proceedings for the day as he has other engagements. Court agreed to Luthra’s request and has fixed May 20 as the next date for Akbar’s Cross Examination.

Come prepared for the full day on the next date, Judge Samar Vishal told Akbar.

THE CASE

MJ Akbar had to step down from his position as a union minister due to a number of sexual harassment allegations against him from numerous women who had worked with him over the years including a rape allegation by NPR business editor Pallavi Gogoi.

Several journalists came to support Ramani including Natasha Badhwar, Faye D’Souza, Namita Bhandare, Siddharth Vardharajan, Rana Safvi and others.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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