Former Union Minister M J Akbar told a Delhi court Friday that journalist Priya Ramani's accusations of sexual misconduct against him in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018 were "figment of her imagination" and caused him "great humiliation" and "irreparably damaged his reputation".
Mr Akbar made the allegations before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja through his lawyer during the final hearing of a private criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Ms Ramani after he was accused on social media at the height of the #MeToo campaign in India.
Mr Akbar resigned as union minister on October 17, 2018.
Ms Ramani in 2018 accused Mr Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. Since then, several women have come up with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by Mr Akbar while they were working as journalists under him.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Mr Akbar, said that the complaints should have been raised then and there before the appropriate authority.
"Allegations are a figment of her (Ms Ramani's) imagination. Things that I (Mr Akbar) took 49-45 years to build, without any sense of responsibility, were trashed," Ms Luthra said.
"Can you expect a man to answer to something which you allege happened 20-25 years ago? Why now? What is the public good that you are claiming? If there is a grievance, it has to be raised then and there before the appropriate authority... I don't want to jump onto a political bandwagon," she added.
"My whole life has gone without any controversy... Can you mar anybody's life without any impunity, without any evidence? We can't be a social media country," she said.
While referring to an article written by Ms Ramani, which was allegedly termed Mr Akbar a "predator" and a "pervert", she said the allegations were "false narrative".
"This has caused great humiliation to Mr Akbar and his reputation has been irreparably damaged. He developed a reputation and that's why he was a Minister (of State) of External Affairs. He wrote extensively on South Asia. In that sense, the country needs such people," she said.
The court will further hear the case on February 28.
Mr Akbar has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women, who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.
Ms Ramani accused Akbar of sexual misconduct when he was a journalist, a charge denied by him.
She had earlier told the court that her "disclosure" of alleged sexual harassment by Mr Akbar has come at "a great personal cost" and she had "nothing to gain" from it.
She had said her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at workplace.