Journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court Thursday that she had no “mala fide” and “extraneous” motive for making the allegations of sexual harassment against former Union minister M J Akbar during the #MeToo movement. Ramani made the submissions before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja while being cross examined by Akbar’s counsel in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar against her for making the allegations.
Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17 last year, filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.
“It is wrong to suggest that all the details of the alleged event described by me are a figment of my imagination and are a work of fiction. It is wrong to suggest that I had made the allegations against the complainant for oblique motive and not to empower women. It is wrong to suggest that I have mala fide and extraneous motive for making the allegations against Akbar,” she said.
She said her tweets accusing Akbar were not “defamatory and malicious”.
“It is wrong to suggest that what I have done by publishing the tweets was wrong, defamatory and malicious, Ramani. It is wrong to suggest that it has harmed the reputation of the complainant. It is wrong to suggest that my tweets and publication had nothing to do with ‘doing the right thing’,” Ramani said, adding that she had “not deposed falsely.”
The court concluded the cross examination of Ramani and posted the mater for further hearing on December 10.
The court also concluded the cross examination of Ramani’s friend, Niloufer Venkatraman, who said that the details of alleged sexual harassment by Akbar were “so bizarre” and “inappropriate” that it created a lasting image.
Ramani accused Akbar of sexual misconduct when he was a journalist, a charge denied by him.
Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in an article in the ‘Vogue’ and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary and that an “immediate damage” was caused to him due to the “false” allegations by Ramani.
Ramani had earlier told the court that her “disclosure” of alleged sexual harassment by Akbar has come at “a great personal cost” and she had “nothing to gain” from it.
She had said her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at workplace.
She worked at the Asian Age from January to October in 1994 and had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. Akbar has denied the accusations.
Several women have come out with accounts of the alleged sexual harassment by him while they were working as journalists under Akbar.
Akbar has termed the allegations “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.