Did not meet Priya Ramani at hotel: M.J. Akbar

Ex-minister examined in defamation case

Former Union Minister M.J. Akbar, who is being cross-examined in a local court here in the defamation case filed by him against journalist Priya Ramani, on Monday denied meeting Ms. Ramani at Mumbai’s Oberoi hotel in 1993 for a job interview.

Mr. Akbar had resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs in October last year after Ms. Ramani accused him of sexual harassment when he was the editor of a newspaper she had worked in.

During his cross-examination, Mr. Akbar denied asking Ms. Ramani to come to the Oberoi Hotel in December 1993. He also also denied having an offered alcoholic drink to Ms Ramani in the hotel room and that the conversation between them was “more personal than professional”.

“Since there was no meeting, therefore, it is wrong to suggest that I did not ask Priya Ramani about her writing skills, her knowledge of current affairs, or her ability to enter the world of journalism,” Mr. Akbar replied.

The three-hour-long cross-examination took place in a packed courtroom which including senior journalists, who had come in support of Ms Ramani, apart from reporters and lawyers. It also saw fierce exchange of arguments between the former minister’s counsel and senior advocates Geeta Luthra and Rebecca John representing Ms. Ramani.

Mr Akbar said he was “not sure whether Ms Priya Ramani was offered a job in Asian Age newspaper in January 1994 in Delhi office… As it is a 25-year-old matter”. He, however, said that to the “best of his knowledge, she was working in the Bombay office”.

As the cross-examination could not be completed, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal posted the case for further hearing on July 6.

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