Former Union minister MJ Akbar on Saturday denied allegations of sexual harassment raised by journalist Priya Ramani and claimed her tweets last year had caused his “irreplaceable damage” to his reputation. Akbar deposed before the Court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in a defamation suit filed against Ramani, Bar and Bench reported.
His cross-examination will continue on May 20.
Akbar, who was represented by advocate Geeta Luthra, called a series of tweets by Ramani a “curious anomaly”. “The original article in Vogue did not contain my name,” he said. “I can infer that this was because the inclusion of my name would have been defamatory. The tweet however referred specifically to me.”
Akbar called the language of the tweet “deeply offensive”, mala fide, and a “web of fabrication spun out of lies”. “This affected by public reputation as well as my standing within family and friends,” he told the court. “The allegations made are false; however in order to protect my reputation, I sought the justice of this court.”
Akbar said he chose to resign as the minister of state and decided to “seek justice in his personal capacity” since the allegation was made in a personal capacity. He said news articles were written based on Ramani’s tweets, which amounted to “aggravated defamation”.
Akbar said the allegations affected his public life and his reputation negatively. He claimed the allegations were “unwarranted, defamatory and mala fide”.
“My reputation was lowered in the eyes of friends and colleagues by false allegations made by Ramani intentionally...” Akbar claimed. “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...”
Akbar had filed the case in October after Ramani published a series of tweets containing allegations of sexual harassment about him. The Patiala House Court had on January 29 issued summons to Ramani. On February 25, the court granted bail to Ramani on a surety of Rs 10,000. On April 10, Ramani pleaded not guilty in the lawsuit.
Though nearly 20 women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years last October, the former minister has called all the allegations “wild”, “baseless” and a “sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe”. Akbar also hinted that there was a political motivation for the sexual harassment allegations as they had come up months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He, however, had stepped down as the minister of state for external affairs after the allegations.