[Live Updates]:MJ Akbar deposition in his defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 2

[Live Updates]:MJ Akbar deposition in his defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 2

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

Day 1 – May 4, 2019:  Deposition of MJ Akbar and Cross-Examination

Rebecca John: 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.

Rebecca John: 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.

Live updates of today’s hearing follow. 

  • MJ Akbar appears before the Court of ACMM Samar Vishal.
  • Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra insists that the cross-examination should be in question-answer form.
  • Judge says this a summons trial case.
  • Luthra says it cannot be a blanket decision. There may be irrelevant questions.
  • If I disallow a question, I will write the question and/or note down your objection, says the Court.
  • Cross Examination begins.
  • Senior Advocate Rebecca John repeats the last question that was put to Akbar on the last date of hearing.
  • I did not receive any phone call from the reception by Priya Ramani, MJ Akbar on being asked if he received a phone call from Ramani after she reached the Oberoi Hotel. It is incorrect that I asked her to come to my room, Akbar further responds to a query.
  • I do not know, says Akbar on being asked if it was Priya Ramani’s first job interview. It is wrong to suggest that Priya Ramani came to my room and I answered the door, MJ Akbar adds.
  • It is wrong to suggest that the hotel room was small and it was a bedroom, MJ Akbar on being asked a question on his room being small.
  • Luthra objects to the kind of questions being asked. When I have denied the meeting, the questions are irrelevant, Luthra.
  • It is further wrong to suggest that Ramani and I were seated at the table, MJ Akbar. It is further wrong to suggest that the conversation between us was more personal than professional, MJ Akbar deposes.
  • It is further wrong that I asked her about her family and why she went abroad to study. It is further incorrect to suggest that I asked her if she was married. It is wrong to suggest that she told me that this job was important to her as it was her first job, MJ Akbar.
  • It is further wrong to suggest that she told you that it was her dream to be a journalist. It is further incorrect to suggest that she did not want to be trapped in an arrange marriage, MJ Akbar further says.
  • MJ Akbar denies singing old hindi songs after Priya Ramani said that she liked songs.
  • It is wrong to suggest that i sat on a small two seater sofa. It is wrong to suggest that i asked Ramani to join me which she refused, MJ Akbar.
  • It is further wrong to suggest that when Priya Ramani was leaving I told her that my office will get in touch with her in a few days, Akbar.
  • Since there was no meeting, it is wrong to suggest that I did not ask Priya Ramani about her writing skills, knowledge of current affairs or her ability to enter the world of journalism, MJ Akbar.
  • Further, since I did not meet her on that day, I do not know if she felt unnerved by my behavior, Akbar.
  • Luthra says it is about the accused, how can MJ Akbar answer it. Court records the objection.
  • I do not know if Priya Ramani went back to her home after leaving the Hotel, MJ Akbar on being asked if Ramani went home from the Hotel.
  • She never came. How can I say whether she went back, Luthra objects.
  • Verbal combat between Luthra and John.
  • It started peacefully, it was going on peacefully. Let it continue like that says Judge Vishal.
  • It is wrong to suggest that Priya Ramani called her friend Nilofer and narrated the entire incident to her, Akbar.
  • Luthra says the question is hearsay. Objection sustained.
  • It is wrong to suggest that I deposed wrongly and that I was tutored to give the wrong answer, MJ Akbar.
  • I am not sure if Priya Ramani was offered a job in New Delhi office of The Asian Age in 1994. It was 25 years ago, MJ Akbar on being asked if Ramani was offered a job.
  • She was working with Bombay Office, Akbar adds.
  • I do not specifically recall that she asked for a transfer to Bombay office after ten days. She would have moved to Bombay with the permission of the Editor, if it did happen, MJ Akbar on Ramani’s transfer request.
  • It may be correct that Priya Ramani had quit the The Asian Age in 1994 and joined Reuters, MJ Akbar.
  • It is correct that after quitting The Asian Age she never worked with me, Akbar.
  • I am not aware of Priya Ramani’s career details, Akbar on being asked if he was aware that Ramani had been a journalist for the last 20 years.
  • John shows The Vogue article written by Priya Ramani to Akbar.
  • Are you aware that in 2017, numerous women in America made public allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein? MJ Akbar: yes.
  • This question is irrelevant, Luthra objects.
  • John: Is it correct that the article is titled ‘To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world’? MJ Akbar: It is evident.
Priya Ramani’s article
Priya Ramani’s article
  • John: Are you aware that the URL of the Vogue article is ‘harvey-weinsteins-open-letter-sexual-harrasment‘? Akbar: It is self-evident.
  • Luthra objects. All of this is a matter of record. It is hit by Sections 91, 92 of the Evidence Act.
  • John shows Priya Ramani’s tweet to Akbar.
  • In the Vogue Article, only one part which starts from ‘You taught me my first workplace lesson..’ till ‘I would never be alone in the same room with me‘ refers to MJ Akbar. The entire article does not refer to MJ Akbar, John puts to Akbar.
  • It is incorrect to suggest that only a part of the Vogue Article refers to me. Published version did not have my name. Later in the tweet, Ramani confirmed that the whole piece was about me, Akbar responds.
Priya Ramani’s Tweet
Priya Ramani’s Tweet
  • It is wrong to suggest that the remaining portion of the article refers to the experiences of other women with other bosses, in particular, Harvey Weinstein, MJ Akbar adds.
  • John refers to the remainining part of the Article and asks if it begins from: ‘All these years later, the world has changed but your species remains the same..’ Akbar: It is self-evident.
  • It is in my knowledge that various articles on Harvey Weinstein and his unwelcome sexual encounters with Hollywood actors etc were extensively investigated and written about in 2017, MJ Akbar further answers a query.
  • John asks similar question with respect to articles by several other journalists.
  • I have not read any of these articles, MJ Akbar responds to the questions.
  • John: I put it to you that certain portions from Ramani’s Vogue Article are extracted from the above articles. MJ Akbar: I have not read the other articles.
  • It is wrong to suggest that I was always aware that portions in Ramani’s article referred to other male bosses. The article begins with ‘male boss’ and not with male bosses, MJ Akbar. Further denies that male boss was a generic term.
  • It is wrong to suggest that the article refers to male bosses and some individual, MJ Akbar.
  • It is wrong to suggest that in Priya Ramani’s tweet ‘Never named him because he didn’t do anything’, the words were used in a sarcastic sense, Akbar.
  • Your Honour, nothing happened. There was no meeting, Akbar on being asked if the words ‘didn’t do anything’ in Ramani’s tweet meant that nothing physical happened between the two.
  • John refers to tweets by other people as well, quoting Ramani’s article.
  • It is self-evident that others has tweeted. I only relied on tweet by Priya Ramani, MJ Akbar.
  • John: I put it to you that these tweets and retweets also made allegations against you. Refers to tweets by Prashanto K Roy and Shuma Raha. MJ Akbar: These tweets made allegations against me. They are all false.
  • John: Is it correct that Priya Ramani tags several women in her tweet? Akbar: It is self evident.
  • John : I put it to you that on 6.10.2018 Gazala Wahab made a tweet ‘I wonder when the floodgates will open about @mjakbar‘. Akbar: I have not read the tweet.
  • This is a defamation case by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani. Such questions cannot be asked. They can only come within the four corners of defence of criminal defamation, Luthra objects.
  • John says cross examination need not be confined to questions asked in Chief Examination, refers to Section 138, Evidence Act. I can test the veracity of MJ Akbar’s statements, John.
  • John further refers to a similar tweet by Shunali K Shroof. MJ Akbar: I have not read it.
  • It is correct that Gazala Wahab worked with The Asian Age in Delhi between 1994 and 1998. I do not recall whether Shunali worked as a reporter in Asian Age from 1999-2000, MJ Akbar.
  • Court takes 10 minute break.
  • Court reassembles.
  • John shows an Article by The Firstpost on MJ Akbar. Akbar: I have read the article.
  • It is correct that this Article carries a tweet by Harinder Baweja, Akbar says.
  • John: Are you aware that Baweja is a senior journlist with Hindustan Times. Akbar: Yes.
  • John draws the attention to tweet by Shuma Raha. Akbar: I have seen the tweet.
  • In continuation to Raha’s first tweet, John shows another tweet by Raha. The tweet refers to an incident in 1995 in Taj Bengal, Kolkata. MJ Akbar: I have not read them.
  • I cannot recall whether Raha was the Associate Editor of The Telegraph. These are matters of 25-30 years. I have never seen any complaints, Akbar.
  • John shows tweets by Shutapa Paul and Kadambari M Wade. Paul refers to her encounter with MJ Akbar eight years ago. Akbar: I am seeing these now.
  • I cannot recall if Wade worked with me in The Asian Age in 1998/1999, MJ Akbar.
  • I have no idea if Kadambari Wade was the first woman sports editor at a mainstream newspaper, HT, MJ Akbar.
  • This is wholly irrelevant. There has to be an end to talking about X and Y, Luthra objects.
  • This is going way to far from the trial at hand, Luthra adds. Court decides to let it continue for now.
  • John shows an article by Ghazala Wahab, published by The Wire. I am aware of the article by Ghazala Wahab, MJ Akbar.
  • It is correct that when I returned from Africa in October 2018, I refuted the allegations made by Ghazala Wahab, MJ Akbar. I am not aware of a subsequent article by Wahab after I made a statement to the Press, Akbar.
  • Akbar confirms that Majlie de Puy Kamp worked as an intern at The Asian Age in 2006-2007.
  • I have not read a 12.10.2018 story carried by Huffington Post India on the harassment faced by Kamp, Akbar states.
  • John: Is it correct that you apologized to Kamp’s father when he confronted you about the sexual harassment incident through an email?  John shows the content of the email. 
  • Akbar: I cannot confirm the content of the email.. there was no question of sexual harassment.
  • I recall that there might have been a mention of some misunderstanding which was accepted, Akbar adds. 
  • Judge: Let’s close evidence for the day,  asks counsel if they would like to continue post lunch. 
  • Akbar, before anyone else can answer: I will. 
  • Court adjourns hearing for the day. 
  • Cross Examination to continue on July 6. 
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