Journalist Priya Ramani, who is facing a criminal defamation case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar, told a court in Delhi on Wednesday that a person accused of sexual harassment cannot be of high reputation, Live Law reported.
During the #MeToo movement in India in 2018, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment. He resigned from his position after that and filed a defamation case against Ramani. Akbar has repeatedly said that Ramani’s allegations tarnished his “impeccable” reputation.
At Wednesday’s hearing also, Akbar sought “justice” from the court for the damage to his reputation. “I have no other way to get redressal and I have irreparably been harmed in my reputation, in my name which I have built in about 50 years of hard work and efforts,” he said.
Ramani countered his argument. “No human being who has been accused of sexual harassment can be a person of high reputation, no matter by one woman or by many, numbers do no matter,” Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John submitted on her behalf.
She added: “No journalist who has been accused of harassing a female journalist who is much younger than him, can be a person of high reputation. No journalist guilty of contempt of court can be of high reputation.”
Ramani’s lawyer also responded to allegations of plagiarism in the article in which the journalist made the accusations against Akbar. “I ask myself a question, if Priya Ramani wanted, she could have said the whole article is against Mr. Akbar,” John said. “But here is a witness who respects the truth and truthfully told the court that her experience with Akbar only refers to first and fourth paras of the article.”
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John added that Ramani borrowed certain phrases from other articles to represent “what Harvey Weinsteins did to other women”. “These are representative samples to highlight the amount of harassment faced by women by their bosses,” the lawyer said. “And to say this as plagiarism is absurd.”
During the previous hearing in the case on Saturday, Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra had argued that media trial was unacceptable in a country that followed the rule of law. She again said that the allegations against Akbar were “fabricated and false”.
A background of the case
After Ramani called out Akbar in a Vogue India article, around 20 more women came forward and accused him 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 2019, 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 2020 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.
In November, 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.