Wrong to suggest Ramani’s tweets were meant for awareness: Akbar

New Delhi: Former Union minister M.J. Akbar on Saturday told a Delhi court that it was wrong to suggest that the articles and tweets written by journalist Priya Ramani were meant to raise awareness about sexual harassment at the work place.

The court was hearing a defamation case filed by Akbar against Ramani.

Ramani was the first among nearly a dozen women journalists, who accused Akbar, a journalist-turned-politician, of sexual harassment at the work place in the wake of the #MeToo movement in October last year.

During his cross-examination, the former Minister of State for External Affairs told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that he was not aware of the sequential character of the #MeToo movement.

Asked by Ramani’s counsel and senior advocate Rebecca John whether he was aware of #MeToo movement, Akbar said: “I am not aware whether the #MeToo movement began on the social media, but I am aware that it was started. I am not aware that the #MeToo movement began abroad and in India it was the manifestation of an international movement.”

He admitted that he was aware that the #MeToo movement had gathered sharp momentum in October 2018 when several women belonging to the Indian film Industry, news media and others spoke out against sexual harassment at the work place.

Akbar said he was not selective in filing a defamation suit against Ramani and did not intend to target her. “It is also wrong to suggest that Ramani’s disclosures in her tweets and articles relating to me were true and made in good faith,” he said.

He also told the court that before filing the case against Ramani, he discussed with his friends the allegations made against him and they all expressed shock at the charges.

Akbar has cited seven complainant witnesses to prove his charges against Ramani and denied that they were tutored.

After concluding Akbar’s cross-examination, the court posted the matter for further hearing and cross-examining other complainant witnesses on July 15.