Former Union minister MJ Akbar on Tuesday told a Delhi court that journalist Priya Ramani should have taken recourse to law instead of making allegations of sexual misconduct against him on social media, PTI 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.
“What can you do on social media?” senior lawyer Geeta Luthra, representing Akbar, told the court. “You can’t fight with everyone. People on responsible position like journalists should not make such allegations on social media. They should come to court instead...You [Ramani] did not take the recourse to any law.”
Luthra was making her submissions during the final hearing of a criminal complaint filed by Akbar against Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct.
She further said that Ramani’s accusations made in 2018, 20 years after the alleged harassment, were made without any good faith.
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During the last hearing on December 18, Ramani’s lawyer had told the court that Akbar “played a fraud” by not mentioning the accusations of sexual harassment levelled against him by other women and claiming that only her client’s statement defamed him.
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 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 Delhi court in September that she deserved to be acquitted as 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.”