Journalist Priya Ramani told the Rose Avenue Court in New Delhi on Thursday that she had no malafide and extraneous motive for making charges of sexual harassment against former Union minister MJ Akbar, Bar and Bench reported. The court was hearing a criminal defamation case Akbar brought against Ramani for accusing him of sexually harassing her in a hotel room in 1993.
“It is wrong to suggest that I have malafide and extraneous motive for making the allegations against Akbar,” Ramani said in court on Thursday. “It is wrong to suggest that all the details of the alleged event described by me are a figment of my imagination and are a work of fiction.”
Ramani added that it was also wrong to argue that her conduct as a journalist was unethical. She said it was wrong to say that “what I have done by publishing the tweets was wrong, defamatory and malicious”.
Ramani denied that she had harmed Akbar’s reputation by making allegations of sexual harassment against him. “It is wrong to suggest that my tweets and publication had nothing to do with ‘doing the right thing’,” Ramani said. Ramani also denied that she had given false testimony before the court.
Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra also cross-examined Ramani’s friend Niloufer Venkatraman. Venkatraman told the court that the details of the alleged sexual harassment by Akbar were “so bizarre” and “inappropriate” that it created a lasting image in her mind, PTI reported.
The court posted the matter for hearing next on December 10.
Ramani had first made allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified MJ Akbar as that editor in October 2018 during the #MeToo movement, in a series of tweets. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.
In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
In May, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. He denied all information about the meeting that Ramani had narrated.
In September, Ramani told the court that she had spoken up more than two decades after the event so that women in similar situations might find the courage to fight back. She said that by remaining silent she could have been avoided being targeted. But that would not have been the right thing to do, Ramani added.
In her statement in court, Ramani recounted that Akbar had called her to his hotel bedroom for a job interview in 1993 and had behaved inappropriately. “When I reached his room, it was an intimate space, essentially his bedroom, and I was deeply uncomfortable and felt unsafe at Akbar’s repeated inappropriate personal questions, his offer of an alcoholic beverage, his loud singing of songs and his invitation to sit close to him,” she added.
Akbar had quit as minister of state for external affairs in October 2018, quit days after there were multiple allegations of harassment levelled against him.