Journalist Priya Ramani told a court in Delhi on Saturday that she deserved to be acquitted in the criminal defamation case filed against her by former Union minister MJ Akbar because she shared her experience in good faith and encouraged other women to speak out against sexual harassment, Bar and Bench reported.
Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John, while submitting her final arguments in the case before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, said that Ramani had proved her allegations against Akbar with solid evidence, which were also confirmed by multiple women. “I proved my truth.. My truth was corroborated by Nilofer,” John said on Ramani’s behalf. “I pleaded good faith by stating that ‘I began the piece with my MJ Akbar story’ and then explained how the (Vogue) article should be read..I explained the nature of my tweets..”
John stated before the court that freedom of speech and expression was “critical and intrinsic” to a democracy and that Ramani was a small part of the larger #MeToo movement, in which thousands of women spoke about being sexually harassed.
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John also cited United States judge and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg to speak about the discrimination that women face. “I was a law school teacher and that’s how I regard my role here with my colleagues who haven’t had the experience of growing up female and don’t fully appreciate the arbitrary barriers that have been put in women’s way,” John quoted Ginsburg as saying, according to The Indian Express. She added that Ramani’s case had been a learning experience for her.
Ramani’s lawyer said that she had carefully explained her statements. “I have discharged the burden of good faith by putting myself on the stand,” she quoted Ramani as saying. “I have not run away. I have not feigned ignorance like the other side. I have given an explanation for the words that I’ve used.”
John also said that Ramani “did not jump into any bandwagon”, but on the contrary, there was an “avalanche” of accusations against Akbar.
Ramani’s lawyer also responded to Akbar’s accusation that her tweets had tarnished the reputation he built through his work. “Hard work is not exclusive to MJ Akbar,” she quoted Ramani as saying. “This case is not about how hard he worked.. My case is that before I met him, I admired him as a journalist. But his conduct with me and the shared experience of other women do not justify this complaint.”
Ramani had first made the allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified Akbar as that editor in October 2018 during the #MeToo movement, in a series of tweets. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.
The Patiala House Court had on January, 2019 issued summons to Ramani in the defamation case. In February she was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000 in the case. In May 2019, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. He denied all information about the meeting that Ramani had narrated.