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Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal of the Patiala House Court today closed the recording of the witnesses’ statements on behalf of former Union Minister MJ Akbar in his defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani.
Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment and misconduct in a series of tweets published last month. Although several women have leveled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against the former Minister, Akbar has filed a defamation complaint against Ramani alone.
The Court today recorded the statements of three more witnesses – Tapan Chaki, Manzar Ali and Rachna Goel.
Tapan Chaki, a communication consultant by profession, claimed to have known Akbar for 30 years. After Akbar moved to Calcutta and edited The Sunday, Chaki used to write for him. He was also the first publisher of The Asian Age.
“I always found him a great gentleman, a hard taskmaster when it came to journalism. As a person, I found him a man of impeccable credentials; a warm, friendly, and very well mannered person”, he added.
Therefore, after he read the tweets and publications posted by Ramani, Chaki was “extremely distressed, dismayed, shocked and saddened.”
This was so “because an impeccable reputation built over so many years was tarnished in (his) eyes and grave damage to his reputation was caused due to these tweets”, Chaki told the Court.
Manzar Ali, Akbar’s personal assistant for the last 25 years, deposed that he took printouts of all the tweets and publications by Ramani, from the computer and printer installed at Akbar’s office.
Akbar’s former personal assistant Rachna Goel deposed that during her ten years working with Akbar, she found him to be “very professional and never heard of any suggestion or complaint of any inappropriate behavior by him.”
“Mr. Akbar has been very professional, very encouraging and has been very helpful in grooming and building up careers of many resources associated with him”, she informed the Court.
As was claimed by Chaki, Goel also stated that she was shocked after reading Ramani’s tweets.
“This has damaged his reputation which he has built up over the years of his extreme hard work”, she concluded.
The Court has recorded statements by seven witnesses in the matter, including that of Akbar’s.
The Patiala House Court had taken cognizance of Akbar’s complaint and had summoned him to testify last month. In his testimony before the ACMM, Akbar had described Ramani’s allegations as “fabricated non-events”.
Akbar was represented by Sandeep Kapur, Senior Partner at Karanjawala and Co. , assisted by Principal Associate Veer Inder Singh Sandhu, Senior Associates Vivek Suri, Niharika Karanjawala and Associates Apoorva Pandey and Gudipati G Kashyap.
The matter will be next heard on January 22.