Journalist Priya Ramani on Wednesday told a court in Delhi that she spoke out about being sexually harassed by former Union minister MJ Akbar in good faith and for public good, and challenged the defamation case against her, Bar and Bench reported.
Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment in 2018, following which he resigned from the Union Council of Ministers and filed a criminal defamation case against her.
The journalist made a fresh submission to the Court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, since a new judge has taken over the case now. “I have pleaded truth as my defence, that my disclosure was made in good faith, for public good,” Ramani said. “The reason I have done so because it touched a question of public importance.”
She added: “The court will have to come to a conclusion that although an imputation was made, no case for defamation is made out.”
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Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John told the court that to impute “anything which is true concerning any person for public good” is not defamation.
Ramani stood by her article in Vogue India, in which she spoke about the sexual harassment she faced. “Their [Akbar’s] case is I published my tweets, article for Vogue... there is no contestation,” she said. “I admit to have written all of these. I am not denying them. I have never denied them.”
Last month, Ramani and Akbar had rejected the court’s proposal for mutual settlement in the case.
On November 18, the Delhi High Court had transferred Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, who presided over the case. He was replaced by Ravindra Kumar Pandey.
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 during the #MeToo movement in 2018. Soon after, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.
The Patiala House Court summoned Ramani as an accused in January 2019 after Akbar filed the defamation case against her. In February 2019, she was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
In May, Akbar denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. He also dismissed all the information that Ramani provided about the meeting.
Ramani told the court in Delhi on September this year that she deserved to be acquitted, because she shared her experience in good faith and encouraged other women to speak out against sexual harassment. Her lawyer Rebecca John, while submitting the final arguments in the case, said that Ramani had proved her allegations against Akbar with solid evidence, which were also confirmed by multiple women.
Ramani’s 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 said. “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.”