Author and politician MJ Akbar was cross-examined in Delhi’s Patiala House Court on Monday during the hearing of a defamation case he had filed against journalist Priya Ramani, Bar and Bench reported. The court adjourned further hearing in the case to July 6.
Akbar denied the interview meeting in which Ramani had accused of sexually harassing her. He denied all details about the meeting that Ramani had claimed, such as that he sang songs to her or that he asked her personal questions.
Ramani had first made claims about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified Akbar as that editor in October 2018. Soon after this, nearly 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.
In her article, Ramani had described how the editor called her for a job interview to his “plush south Mumbai hotel” when she was 23 and he was 43. The editor did not meet her in the hotel lobby and insisted that she meet him in his room. There, he offered her a drink. Though she refused, he drank vodka himself. She alleged that he went on to sing old Hindi songs to her and at one point, asked her to sit close to him.
Akbar filed the defamation case soon after Ramani identified him as the harasser, calling all allegations against him “wild”, “baseless” and a “sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe”. He resigned from his post as a Cabinet minister and decided to “seek justice in his personal capacity”.
On May 4, Akbar denied the allegations by Ramani and claimed her tweets last year had caused “irreplaceable damage” to his reputation. 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.”