NEW DELHI: Former Union Minister M J Akbar, who recorded his statement before a Delhi court on Saturday in a defamation case filed by him against journalist Priya Ramani, replied that he does not remember their meeting and other details after he was cross-examined by Ramani's counsel.
Akbar, who appeared before before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, said that his defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct 20 years ago, was "correct" as his public life has been "adversely affected" and "lifetime's good reputation" damaged by her "offensive words".
Akbar, who was cross-examined by senior advocate Rebecca John on several details regarding his meeting with Ramani for a job in Asian Age among others, responded by saying that he does not remember.
John asked him if Ramani had met him in his office in December, 1993, while she was looking for a job in Asian Age, Mumbai and whether he had asked her to meet him at the Oberoi Hotel at Nariman Point.
To both the questions, Akbar answered: "I do not remember".
There were heated exchanges between Akbar and Ramani's counsel during the proceedings in the courtroom where several prominent journalists were present.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Akbar, interrupted Ramani's counsel several times demanding the cross-examination be conducted in a question-answer format, but was finally asked by the judge to stop.
"This is a defamation case. If she is convicted, she will be going to jail for two years. Let her defend herself properly," the judge said to Luthra.
Akbar, in his statement, said that the allegations made by Ramani had "affected" his reputation "very negatively" and that her "attacks" were "unwarranted, defamatory and malafide".
"In this context I chose to resign from my position as Minister of State since the allegations had been made in my personal capacity," he said.
Describing the calls that he received from his family and friends after Ramani's allegations, he said that they were "profoundly hurt" and "extremely upset" and it was only after hearing his version that they "began to understand the nature of this assault" on his reputation.
"They had questions and I also received calls because these attacks were unwarranted defamatory and malafide. This also obviously affected my public life. Yes indeed it affected my reputation very negatively," Akbar said.
He said that the original article penned by Ramani did not contain his name, and it was because she realised it was defamatory.
However, John, appearing for Ramani, objected saying that it was the "opinion of the witness".
"There was a curious anomaly, the original article in Vogue did not contain my name. I can infer that this was because the inclusion of my name would have been defamatory," he said.
"The tweet however refers superficially to me. This tweet was by Priya Ramani. The used language was deeply maligning, malafide in bad faith and a web spun out of lies. This adversely affected my public reputation," Akbar further said.
He also said that Ramani's allegations has cost him a lifetime's good reputation and has lowered his prestige in the eyes of right thinking members of the public.
"This amounts to damaging a lifetime's good reputation of more than 50 years of professional ability. The per se affect was defamation and lowering of prestige in the eyes of right thinking members of the public," Akbar said.
Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17 last year, had 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 has accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. Akbar has denied the accusations.
The court has posted the matter for May 20.