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Wrong to Suggest Ramani Posted Tweets to Raise Awareness About Sexual Harassment: MJ Akbar

The former Minister of State for External Affairs told a Delhi court that he was not selective in filing a defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani and did not intend to target her.


Updated:July 6, 2019, 4:15 PM IST
Wrong to Suggest Ramani Posted Tweets to Raise Awareness About Sexual Harassment: MJ Akbar
File photo of MJ Akbar.

New Delhi: Former Union minister MJ Akbar on Saturday told a Delhi court that articles and tweets by journalist Priya Ramani were not meant to raise awareness on sexual harassment at workplace.

During his cross-examination by senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, Akbar was questioned about the allegations made by other women journalists who had also accused him of sexual misconduct while they were working with him.

"It is wrong to suggest that Ramani's disclosures in her tweets and articles were true and made in good faith for public interest," Akbar said. "It is also wrong to suggest that the articles and tweets of Priya Ramani were meant to raise awareness of pervasiveness of the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace," he added.

While he termed as "misunderstanding the allegations made by Majlie De Puy Kamp, who worked with him as an intern, Akbar said he was not aware of an article written by his former colleague Ruth David accusing him of sexual harassment.

"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," the former editor told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.

Akbar, who had resigned as minister state for external affairs on October 17 last year following the allegations levelled during the #MeToo campaign, said that prior to filing the complaint against Ramani, he was aware that several other women had made allegations against him but he did not file any complaint of defamation against any other person, international or Indian publication.

However, he said he was not selective in filing this complaint against Ramani in order to target her. He said that Ramani's tweets used language that was deeply offensive, maligning, in bad faith, and a web of fabrication spun out of the lies. He also said that the allegations in Ramani's articles were false. The court will now take up the matter on July 15.

Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India. Ramani accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. He has denied the accusations.

Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in the article in Vogue and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary. He had told the court in his statement that an "immediate damage" has been caused to him due to the scurrilous, concocted and false allegations of sexual misconduct.

Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist. Akbar has termed the allegations "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

(With inputs from PTI)

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