'No one hinted at Akbar's inappropriate behaviour'

'No one hinted at Akbar's inappropriate behaviour'

#MeToo

M.J. Akbar leaves a court after a hearing in a defamation suit he filed against Priya Ramani (Reuters Photo)

A witness, appearing in support of the criminal defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar, told a Delhi court Monday that none of the colleagues who worked with her ever hinted at any inappropriate behaviour on his part as alleged by journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo campaign.

Veenu Sandal, who wrote astrology and tarot card-related columns for Asian Age between 1994 to 2009 when Akbar was the editor, told the court that "not once did any of my colleague said or hinted at any inappropriate behaviour by Akbar".

"There was not a thing remotely similar to the allegations" levelled by Ramani against Akbar, she told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, while appearing as a complainant's witness in the case filed against Ramani.

Sandal, whose cross-examination concluded today, told the court that Ramani's allegations had damaged the reputation of Akbar and people who knew of her association with him were asking various questions about the matter.

During the hearing, Sandal was shown an article 'Partnering with ghosts of the other world', written in the context of #MeToo movement, Brexit and other contentious issues, which she confirmed was written by her on Oct 13, 2018.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John showed her another article titled 'Humans during day, snakes at night', which Sandal confirmed as written by her.

"I am to write about paranormal activities which includes the supernatural," Sandal said.

The court has fixed July 17 for examination of another witness introduced by Akbar in his defence.

Akbar, who had resigned as minister on October 17 last year following the allegations levelled during the campaign, had told the court that "Ramani's tweets used language that was deeply offensive, maligning, in bad faith, and a web of fabrication spun out of the lies".

Akbar 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 accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. He has denied the accusations.

Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in the article in Vogue and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary.

He 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.

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

Akbar has termed the allegations 'false, fabricated and deeply distressing' and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.