In a heated exchange between lawyers of both parties, former Union Minister M.J. Akbar recorded his statement in a Delhi court on Saturday saying that the allegations levelled by journalist Priya Ramani against him were defamatory and mala fide.
The court was hearing the defamation case against Ramani filed by the former Minister of State for External Affairs, who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Ramani was the first in a long list of female journalists to accuse Akbar, a journalist-turned-politician, of sexual harassment.
On Saturday, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal began examining Akbar’s statement in the case.
During Akbar’s examination by his counsel Geeta Luthra, the politician said that allegations levelled by Ramani were highly offensive, mala fide, false and fabricated.
“Ramani’s tweet had adversely affected my reputation,” Akbar told the court.
Meanwhile, the two-hour-long hearing witnessed several interruptions as Luthra raised objections on various questions asked by Ramani’s counsel Rebecca John while cross-examining Akbar.
However, the court allowed John to proceed, saying it was a criminal defamation case and “she has the liberty to defend herself”.
When advocate John asked Akbar whether he asked Ramani to meet him at The Oberoi hotel in Mumbai’s Nariman Point when she had gone for an interview at The Asian Age newspapers’s office there in December 1993, he replied that he could not recollect the incident.
Ramani’s counsel also asked Akbar questions related to his political connections and raised queries over his ideology, saying that he had changed it several times in the course of his political career.
Akbar won the elections from Bihar’s Kishanganj constituency in 1989 as a Congress candidate and lost the polls from the same seat in 1991.
In response, he said it was wrong to suggest that this behaviour reflects his “political opportunism”.
Advocate John also asked about the contempt notice issued against Akbar by the Delhi High Court in 2003 for reporting false report of court proceedings, to which he replied that he did not remember.
Akbar’s counsel said that John’s questions were irrelevant and raised objections against them.
As the examination of Akbar remained incomplete, the court listed the matter for the further hearing on May 20.