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I read a sentence in The Hindu source which was:

I am agnostic on the question of whether there was an act or two on the part of the CJI or by the woman who complained against him.

I don't know what the word "act" is supposed to mean here.

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Andrew, choster, Chenmunka, laugh May 25 at 17:12

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  • It's just the normal noun sense of an act = an action = a deed. So whether there was an act or two on the part of the CJI means whether CJI did something. More precisely, whether they did one or two / a few things or not, a matter on which the writer remains open-minded. – FumbleFingers May 7 at 15:31
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It means activity or action or deed or similar.

There is a suggestion of negativity, so perhaps misdeed as well.

Overall, the writer is questioning whether 'the woman' or 'the CJI' did anything relevant, or were merely passive in whatever this is all about.

It reads like the author is trying to avoid being libellous.

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There’s quite a bit going on here, making it surprisingly difficult to answer.

Superficially, it’s just as a few others have already said; “act” is just the noun form of action. The writer is simply pondering whether it was the CJI or the woman who did some relevant stuff.

But it, and the rest of the piece, are written in a stilted form of English that most native speakers, from at least the UK, North America, and Australia etc, would not consider idiomatic, and certainly not in the style expected of a broadsheet newspaper (which I presume The Hindu is?)

For example, “an act or two” sounds strange to my ears (in this context), and creates some confusion. Is the writer assuming the CJI did act, but is wondering whether it was just once, or twice? Or are they wondering if the CJI acted at all, or instead if it was the woman? The subsequent phrase strongly suggests it is the latter, but then it would have been better to use parallel phrasing for both options. So, instead of:

I am agnostic on the question of whether there was an act or two on the part of the CJI or by the woman who complained against him.

I’d prefer to see:

I am agnostic on the question of whether there was an act or two on the part of the CJI or on the part of the woman who complained against him.

But it still remains clumsy to me. I don’t know the precise meaning, so in the following I’m highlighting only style/idiom, not content, but I’m guessing that a UK/US journalist might have produced something more like:

I am still undecided as to whether the blame lies with the CJI or with his accuser.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say other than that: a) “act” means almost certainly nothing more than the obvious already pointed out; but b) if I were the editor (and it was in a British or American etc publication), I’d be handing it back with so much red, the writer would be best to just begin from scratch. It’s that “bad”. But I quote that last word because all it really means is “non-idiomatic and confusing to the Brit/American”. Maybe it’s perfect form in whichever part of India this newspaper is read! 🙂

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