MJ Akbar faces intense grilling by Priya Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John, his lawyer requests court to adjourn hearing

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Former newspaper editor and union minister, MJ Akbar, on Saturday appeared before a local court in Delhi for a cross examination that lasted nearly two hours. Akbar recorded his statement and was grilled by lawyer Rebecca John in a defamation case by him against journalist Priya Ramani.

MJ Akbar

Appearing before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, Akbar repeated his earlier stance that allegations made by Ramani were ‘defamatory’ and ‘malafide.’ However, the cross examination saw plenty of drama as John faced repeated heckling and interventions by Akbar’s lawyer.

Also present in the court were several journalists such as  Barkha Dutt, Faye D’Souza, Nidhi Razdan, Javed Mansari, Suparna Sharma.

Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. After Ramani’s old write-up, published on the Vogue website, went viral, several women, who worked under Akbar as journalists, had come forward to share their horrific stories of being sexually exploited by the journalist-turned-politician.

Here’s how Saturday’s proceedings followed, as reported by legal websites Bar and Bench:

Rebecca John: Mr. Akbar, you have told this court about various engagements with newspapers and joining BJP. But you did not inform the court about your association with the Congress Party.

Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra objects to her question.

Court reframes the question: Is it correct that you joined the Congress party in the year 1989?

Geeta Luthra once again argues stating that the question is irrelevant.

Rebecca John asks, “Did I say anything when she (Luthra) was putting words into his mouth?” John urges judge Samar Vishal to control the proceeding in his court.

Luthra, for her part says, Let it be in Q&A form.

Rebecca John: Is it correct that you were MP from Congress Party from Kishanganj in Bihar from 1989 to 1992?

Akbar says yes.

Rebecca John: is it correct that you were spokesperson from Congress in 1988.

Once again Akbar’s reply is ‘yes.’ 

John asks if Akbar lost an election in 1991 on a Congress ticket.

Once again Luthra objects only to be overruled by the judge, who says ‘your objection is not allowed.’

MJ Akbar replies in yes.

Rebecca John: You have made ideological U-turns several times during your career as a politician, which suggests your political opportunism.

MJ Akbar: It is wrong to suggest so.

Rebecca John: Delhi High Court issued a contempt notice to you in 2003 when you were editor-in-chief of The Asian Age for deliberate false reporting court proceedings.

MJ Akbar: I do not remember

At this point Luthra and John enter into a verbal spat once again. Ramani’s lawyer says that she can’t do cross examination when there are continuous interruptions.

Rebecca John: This is a deeply personal struggle. If you muzzle me, I will get personal.

On John’s question to contempt notice, Akbar replies, “I do no remember whether I tendered an apology in that case.”

MJ Akbar says there were a number of job openings in The Asian Age in 1993 when it was about to be launched. This he says in response to John’s question on job openings at The Asian Age.

Rebecca John: Did Ramani first meet you in the Asian Age office in Bombay in 1993 when she was looking for a job?

MJ Akbar: I do not remember

Rebecca John: You told her that you were busy and asked her to meet you at the Oberoi Hotel at 7 pm?

MJ Akbar: I do not remember

This warrants another intervention by Luthra, who urges the court to record the cross examination in Q&A form

Rebecca John: I put to you, Priya Ramani reached Oberoi Hotel for the job interview with a friend who dropped her there and left

MJ Akbar: I cannot say whether her close friend dropped her there and left. How can I know these things?

Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra then urges the court to adjourn the proceedings for the day as she has other engagements. The judge allows the request but asks her to come prepared for the full day on the next date on 20 May.

(The above court room drama was reported on Twitter by Bar and Bench website)

 

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