[Live Updates]:MJ Akbar deposition in his defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 3
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[Live Updates]:MJ Akbar deposition in his defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 3

Bar & Bench

Former Union Minister MJ Akbar is presently being cross examined in the Court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in connection with his defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani.

Ramani had pleaded not guilty in the case initiated by Akbar back in October 2018.

Akbar approached the Patiala House Court under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, terming the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him as “false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous”.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John is representing Priya Ramani. Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra and Advocate Sandeep Kapur (Senior Partner, Karanjawala & Co) are appearing for MJ Akbar.

This is the third round of cross-examination.

Read an account of the first round of cross-examination on May 4 here and the second round on May 20 here.

Live updates of today’s hearing follow. 

  • Former Union Minister MJ Akbar appears before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for his cross examination in his defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani. Proceedings begin.
  • Court shows the evidence from the last date of hearing to Akbar.
  • Senior Advocate Rebecca John asks Akbar to state the “misunderstanding” that occurred between him and his former intern. MJ Akbar says that the incident with former intern did not happen.
  • It is incorrect to state that Majile De Puy Kamp, the former intern at Asian Age, was sexually assaulted by me, MJ Akbar.
  • John refers to an email written to MJ Akbar by the father of the intern regarding the incident. Akbar: I do not recall the email or replying to the email making an apology.
  • I am not aware whether Kamp is a reputed international journalist having worked as a freelance with The New York Times and is presently a reporter with CNN Invetigates in New York, Akbar
  • I do not recall whether Ruth David worked at the Asian Age with me from the year 1999-2000, Akbar further replies to a suggestion by John.
  • I am not aware nor have I read any articles written by Ruth David recounting instances of sexual misconduct on my part. If any article is written, the allegations are denied, Akbar further states.
  • John: Are you aware that Prerna Singh Bindra made allegations of sexual harassment against you on Twitter? Court records that Bindra’s tweets are matter of record. The tweets form part of a document submitted to Court.
  • Copy of Bindra’s tweets is shown to MJ Akbar.
  • It is correct that Prerna Singh Bindra worked with me at the Asian Age Bombay from 2000-2002, MJ Akbar recalls.
  • I just read the tweets by Bindra. I was not aware of these tweets. However, I had read (about) these tweets in a document (Firstpost article) submitted by me to Court, MJ Akbar.
  • I do not remember the specific date of my return from Africa in October 2018 and when I filed the complaint against Priya Ramani, MJ Akbar. John suggests that the date of complaint was October 15.
  • I refuted the allegations against me in a public statement on Octovber 14, 2018. I do not remember the details of that statement and if I took the names of several women who made allegations against me, MJ Akbar says.
  • I have read the documents filed by me along with the defamation complaint against Priya Ramani, Akbar.
  • I was aware that several women has made allegations against me. I have not filed any complaint of defamation against any other person, international or Indian publication, web portal etc., MJ Akbar acknowledges.
  • I reserve my right to take legal action against any other person or entity in future,  Akbar.
  • I worked with a journalist Pallavi Gogoi in 1994 at Asian Age, MJ Akbar recalls after a suggestion was made by John. I was aware of an article written by Gogoi in The Washington Post, MJ Akbar.
  • But I deny the allegations made by Pallavi Gogoi in her article, Akbar.
  • It is a matter of public record that on Nov 2, 2018 I released a statement to ANI in relation to the allegations made by Pallavi Gogoi, MJ Akbar
  • John: In the statement you said that in 1994 you and Gogoi entered into a consensual relationship. Geeta Luthra, appearing for Akbar, objects to the suggestion.
  • My wife also released a statement to the ANI with respect to the article by Pallavi Gogoi in November 2018, MJ Akbar states.
  • John: Is it the correct factual position that (as per the wife’s statement) at an Asian Age party crowded with young women, your wife watched with mortification and pain as you danced close (with women). Luthra objects to the question. Objection sustained by Court.
  • I am not sure but possibly Pallavi Gogoi was 23 years of age in the year 1994, MJ Akbar. It is correct that I was around 43 years of age at that time and she was my subordinate at workplace, MJ Akbar adds.
  • I am not aware whether in response to my ANI statement Gogoi tweeted and reiterated her account in the Washington Post article, Akbar.
  • I am not aware that Pallavi Gogoi has worked at Dow Jones, Business Week, USA Today, Associated Press and is presently the head of the Business Desk at National Public Radio, USA, MJ Akbar.
  • It is wrong to say that my response to the Article was based on legal advise to preempt any action against me. I have not filed any defamation case against Gogoi, Akbar.
  • I do not remember the dates on which my witnesses Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Tapan Chaki, Sunil Gujral and Rachna Grover contacted me with respect to Priya Ramani’s tweets, MJ Akbar responds to a query to that effect made by John.
  • We discussed about the allegations made by other women journalists before filing the complaint. They expressed their shock, MJ Akbar. My witnesses are not tutored witnesses and were not examined just to fulfill the legal requirements, Akbar adds.
  • John: You stated in your pre-summing evidence that tweets by Ramani used offensive, maligning language, spun a web of lies which became the basis of articles that amounted to aggravated defamation. Akbar: It is a matter of record.
  • It is wrong to suggest that Priya Ramani’s tweets did not use language that was deeply offensive, maligning, in bad faith, and a web if fabrication spun out of the lies. It is wrong to suggest that that allegations in Ramani’s articles are not false, MJ Akbar.
  • It is wrong to suggest that the present complaint filed by me is false and without merit… that I have been selective in filing this complaint against Ramani in order to target her, MJ Akbar.
  • I am not aware whether the movement began on social media but I am aware that the movement had started, Akbar responds to John’s query.
  • I am not aware of the sequential character of the movement or if movement in India was a manifestation of an international movement, Akbar adds.
  • It is wrong to suggest that the Articles and tweets by Priya Ramani were meant to raise awareness regarding the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace, MJ Akbar.
  • It is wrong to suggest that Priya Ramani’s disclosures in the tweets and articles pertaining to me were true and made in good faith for public good and public interest, MJ Akbar concludes.
  • Court concludes MJ Akbar’s cross examination.
  • Proceedings adjourned for the day. Matter to be heard next on July 15.
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