Shocked someone placed on pedestal was accused: MJ Akbar's defence witness

Shocked someone placed on pedestal was accused: MJ Akbar's defence witness

Hearing in the defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani resumed on Monday, with one witness testifying in favour of Akbar.

Akbar’s cross-examination had ended on July 6.

Akbar had resigned as a Minister of State after Ramani levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against him. He had subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit.

During Monday’s hearing before the court of Additional Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, senior journalist Veenu Sandal, who wrote a column in The Asian Age on astrology, said that she was “shocked and it came as a huge jolt” when Ramani called Akbar a predator. Sandal said she was deeply distressed that someone she had placed on a pedestal could do what was alleged, and that Akbar’s “image and his persona fell before her eyes” and “his reputation was dragged through the mud”.

She also told the court that she had never met Ramani, and did not “read anything prior to Ramani’s tweets about any allegations against Akbar by any other woman”.

Ramani’s counsel Rebecca John asked Sandal whether she wrote an article titled ‘Partnering with ghosts of the other world’ in The Sunday Guardian on October 13, 2018, and whether it was written in the context of the “Me Too movement”. Sandal told the court that the article was on ghosts, and Me Too was only mentioned in the introduction. John also showed the witness an article titled ‘Humans during day, snakes at night’, which Sandal said she had written.

John asked Sandal, “Is it correct that in your column… you frequently write on existence of ghosts… ichadhari snakes and communicating with the dead?”

Sandal replied, “I don’t write about them frequently. I write about them always.” She said her brief was to write about “paranormal activities”.