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Court records statements of 2 witnesses in defamation complaint by MJ Akbar

They said the allegations came as a shock to them and irreparable damage was caused to his reputation

By PTI in New Delhi

  • Published 7.12.18, 5:25 PM
  • Updated 7.12.18, 5:25 PM
M.J. Akbar
M.J. Akbar Telegraph file picture

A Delhi court on Friday recorded the statements of two witnesses in support of the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct.

Akbar's two former colleagues, Sunil Gujral and Veenu Sandal, deposed as witnesses before additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal and said the allegations came as a shock to them and irreparable damage was caused to his reputation.

Gujral, a businessman and printer, and publisher of the Sunday Guardian, who appeared as a complainant witness to support the defamation case filed by Akbar, testified that as a colleague and a friend, he never heard any whisper regarding misconduct or misbehaviour of any kind.

Regarding the allegations levelled by Ramani, he said this came as a "shock" to him and he was "very disturbed".

"I spoke to Akbar thereafter as I felt embarrassed and let down. Besides this, my embarrassment was compounded as friends and acquaintances who knew of all my old association with Akbar of almost 40 years started asking embarrassing questions, which made me feel very bad since I felt that irreparable damage has been done to Akbar's reputation in my estimation as well as in estimation of my friend circle and acquaintances," Gujral, who has known Akbar since 1979-80, testified.

Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17, had filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani, his former colleague, after his name cropped up on social media when he was in Nigeria, as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.

The other witness, Sandal, said she heard about Ramani's tweets on October 8 in the news and it was a "huge jolt" that she had called Akbar a "predator".

"It was really distressing that the allegations had been made and that he could do the things that Ramani had alleged... It was very shocking and painful to think that someone you had placed on a pedestal could allegedly fall so low," she deposed.

Sandal, a journalist who said she knows Akbar for over 20 years, added that there was a lot of talk about this at that time and during discussions with friends and at other public places, it was embarrassing to be asked questions about Akbar as people knew of her association with him.

"It was very obvious that not only in my eyes but also in others', his reputation had been dragged through the mud and was in tatters," she said.

The court has posted the matter for further hearing on January 11, when it is likely to record the statement of another witness named by Akbar in his complaint.

It had earlier recorded the statements of Akbar and Joyeeta Basu, the editor of Sunday Guardian.

Akbar 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 levelled against him.

Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist.

He had termed the allegations "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

Expressing her readiness to fight the defamation allegations, Ramani had said, "Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment."

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