MJ Akbar defamation case: Court defers cross-examination till May 20

New Delhi: The Patiala House court on Saturday deferred the cross-examination of the former Union Minister MJ Akbar till May 20 in connection with a defamation case filed by him against journalist Priya Ramani after she complained of sexual misconduct.

MJ Akbar was partly cross-examined today by senior advocate Rebecca John appearing on the behalf of Priya Ramani. The next hearing will be held before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal.

Ramani and other senior journalists were also present during the hearing.
Geeta Luthra appeared on behalf of MJ Akbar in court today.
During the course of hearing, MJ Akbar contended that the allegations made by Ramani “maligned” his reputation.

“I filed a criminal defamation complaint against a tweet that Priya Ramani issued last year in October. The tweet was based on an article that the accused had written in Vogue in 2017. The language used in her tweet was deeply offensive and a web of the fabricated lies.”

He also asserted that he has a “clean history”, to which, Rebecca asked him about the “ideological and political u-turns” Akbar took during his career as a politician.

“Were you not associated with Congress in 1989 and shifted your loyalty in 2014 when you joined BJP?” she asked.

She also counter-questioned him on the allegations of sexual misconduct levied by Ramani. He, however, negated the claim that he had invited her at Oberoi hotel in December 1993 on the pretext of a job interview.

Speaking to media persons after the hearing, senior advocate Rebecca John said: “It is not the story of Priya but countless other women who have been sexually assaulted by Akbar. We want to make it clear that women no longer accept sexual harassment at the workplace. I hope it comes out in the testimonies of various witnesses we will produce. In the end, we hope that the judge acquits her.”

Ramani had on April 10 pleaded not guilty before the court and claimed trial after the court framed defamation charges against her on a criminal complaint of Akbar.

In the last hearing, ACMM Vishal had also granted a permanent exemption to Ramani from personal appearance in the hearings to follow.

In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
Ramani was the first woman to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign.

Akbar, the former Minister of State for External Affairs, had filed a defamation case against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct.
The allegations levelled against him forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018.