New Delhi: Journalist Priya Ramani on Saturday recorded her statement as a witness in a defamation plaint filed against her by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal’s court is recording her statement.
In her statement as a witness, Ramani said: “At 7 p.m. my friend Nilofer dropped me at Oberoi (hotel). When I reached the lobby and looked around for Mr Akbar but after I could not see him, I asked the reception to connect me to him. He asked me to come up to his room.
“I was silent and hesitant, he then reiterated and asked me to come up. I thought the interview would be at the coffee shop or lobby but I was 23 and not that confident to say, “No I will wait for you in the lobby.”
“I did not know I could dictate the terms of the interview. I was hesitant but went up. I rang the bell, he answered and I entered his room.”
She further said: “It was his bedroom, it was small, enclosed. The bed was turned down for the night, there was a small two-seater sofa near the bed. It was a big window and I could see it was a sea facing room, there were 2 chairs and a small table adjacent to the window and we sat there.
“I felt ill at ease to be in such an intimate space for a professional interview. I was acutely aware that I was alone in this room with him. He asked me why I had gone to US to study journalism. I replied that it was my dream to be a journalist, that this job was important to me, specially since it was my first job.
“He then asked many personal questions. He wanted to know if I was married, I said no. He wanted to know if I had boyfriend, I replied no. He asked me many questions about my family, I told him that my parents are keen and I have an arranged match.
Ramani said, Akbar then offered her alcohol from a mini bar, “but I refused”.
Her lawyer then asked, “What happened next?” She replied, “He got up and made a drink for himself. I think it was Vodka. He then asked me about my music preferences, when I replied he started singing old hindi songs to me, I felt extremely uncomfortable at all these inappropriate personal questions.
“He did not discuss my writing skills, my knowledge of current affairs or any journalism related question. Then he moved to the small two seater sofa next to the bed and gestured to me to come sit in the tiny space next to him.
“I was already feeling unnerved by his inappropriate behaviour. Now I was concerned for my physical safety. I knew I had to leave the room immediately. I got up and said I had to leave.
“As I was leaving, Mr Akbar said his office would follow up about the job.” The court was then adjourned for lunch and was to reassemble at 2 p.m.