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

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

Bar & Bench

Former Union Minister MJ Akbar appears before 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”.

Live Updates

  • Court to assemble soon.
  • Many renowned journalists including Barkha Dutt (Tiranga TV), Faye DSouza (Mirror Now), Nidhi Razdan (NDTV), Javed Mansari, Suparna Sharma (Asian Age) in attendance along with Priya Ramani.
  • Court assembles.

MJ Akbar’s deposition before the Court

  • MJ Akbar starts his deposition before Court. Senior Adv Geeta Luthra appears for Akbar.
  • He narrates his educational qualification. “..at a very young age, I joined the Times of India..”, he says as he continues to narrate his professional experience.
  • I was first appointed the editor of Onlooker and then Sunday which was the first major political weekly. In 1982, I became the Editor of The Telegraph as well, Akbar continues.
  • I also launched the Asian Age and later joined India Today as Editorial Director, Akbar. After that, I started the Sunday Guardian. I also wrote a number of books.., Akbar.
  • MJ Akbar lists the books that he has authored. “These books were widely appreciated and published across the world in a number of languages.”
  • It established me a good reputation in my own country as a serious writer, particularly in the realm of south Asia.
  • I was with Sunday between 1976 and 1983. I edited the Telegraph between 1982 and 1989. I was with the Asian Age between 1993 and perhaps 2006. At the moment, I am privileged to be a Member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh.
  • I joined the BJP in 2014 and was appointed National spokesperson .. was included in Ministry of State for External Affairs in 2016.
  • My complaint was filed against a tweet that Priya Ramani issued last year in October. I was in Africa on an official tour…I got the full details only on my return.
  • The tweet was based on an article that the accused had written in Vogue in 2017.
  • There was a curious anomaly. The original article in Vogue did not contain my name. I can infer that this was because the inclusion of my name would have been defamatory. The tweet however referred specifically to me, MJ Akbar.
  • The tweet used a language that was deeply offensive, malign, mala fide, in bad faith and a web of fabrication spun out of lies.
  • This affected by public reputation as well as my standing within family and friends. The allegations made are false; however in order to protect my reputation, I sought the justice of this court.
  • In this context, I chose to resign from my position as the Minister of State. Since the allegation had been made in my personal capacity, I decided to seek justice in my personal capacity.
  • My standing was reflected both in the sequence of responsibilities I was given in journalism and then in public life. I was given jobs of the highest responsibility in media and then politics.
  • The tweets became the basis of articles that amounted to aggravated defamation…The articles were published in most of Indian media as well as internationally known newspapers.
  • The immediate reaction was, of course, from family and close friends who were profoundly hurt. Some old colleagues also were extremely upset…only after hearing my version they began to understand the nature of the assault of my reputation.
  • They had questions because these attacks were unwarranted, defamatory and mala fide. This also adversely affected my public life.
  • It affected my reputation very negatively.
  • I began writing and publishing in the late 1960s & quickly assumed responsibilities of a chief editor in my early 20s, this amounts to damaging a lifetime’s good reputation stretching across more than 50 years.
  • My reputation was lowered in the eyes of friends and colleagues by false allegations made by Ramani intentionally…the per se effect was defamatory, lowering of prestige in the eyes of right thinking people.
  • I have been harmed by the offensive words used, which were false and which caused irreplaceable damage to my stellar reputation which I had built over my years.
  • My complaint is correct and the allegations against me are false, MJ Akbar concludes.

Cross-examination by Rebecca John

  • Senior Advocate Rebecca John appearing for Priya Ramani to begin MJ Akbar’s cross examination now.
  • RJ: Mr. Akbar, you have told this court about various engagements with newspapers and joining BJP. But you did not inform the court about your association with the Congress Party. Luthra objects to the question.
  • Did I say anything when she (Luthra) was putting words into his mouth? argues John as she urges judge Samar Vishal to control the proceeding in his court. Let it be in Q&A form, Luthra says.
  • RJ: Is it correct that you were MP from Congress Party from Kishanganj, Bihar from 1989 to 1992? Akbar says yes.
  • RJ: is it correct that you were spokesperson from Congress in 1988? MJ Akbar: yes
  • RJ asks if MJ Akbar lost an election in 1991 on a Congress ticket. Luthra objects. Your objection is not allowed, judge Vishal says. MJ Akbar says yes.
  • RJ : you have made ideological u-turns several times during your career as a politician…which suggests your political opportunism. MJ Akbar: It is wrong to suggest so.
  • RJ: Delhi High Court issued a contempt notice to you in 2003 when you were editor in chief of The Asian Age for deliberate false reporting of court proceedings. MJ Akbar: I do not remember.
  • Luthra and John break into a verbal combat again. I cannot cross examination when there are continuous interruptions, says John.
  • A copy of the judgement is taken on record. This is a deeply personal struggle. If you muzzle me, I will get personal, John further remarks.
  • I do no remember whether I tendered an apology in that case, MJ Akbar.
  • I am unaware that Priya Ramani studied journalism at the temple University in Philadelphia USA or that she returned to India in 1992, MJ Akbar responds to John’s question.
  • There were a number of job opening in Asian Age in 1993 when it was about to be launched, MJ Akbar on John’s question on job openings at The Asian Age. Paper was launched sometime in 1994.
  • RJ: Did Ramani first meet you in the Asian Age office in Bombay in 1993 when she was looking for a job? MJ Akbar: I do not remember.
  • RJ: You told her that you were busy and asked her to meet you at the Oberoi Hotel at 7 pm? MJ Akbar: I do not remember.
  • Luthra again urges the court to record the cross examination in Q&A form.
  • RJ: I put to you, Priya Ramani reached Oberoi Hotel for the job interview with a friend who dropped her there and left. MJ Akbar: I cannot say whether her close friend dropped her there and left. How can I know these things?
  • Luthra urges court to adjourn the proceedings for the day as he has other engagements. Court allows the request. Come prepared for the full day on the next date, Judge Samar Vishal.
  • MJ Akbar’s cross examination will continue on May 20.
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