MJ Akbar diverting attention from misconduct through defamation case, Priya Ramani tells Delhi court

  • Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged in India.

  • He resigned as minister on 17 October last year.

  • Ramani accused Akbar of engaging in sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist.

  • He has denied the accusations.

Journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court on Friday, 23 August, that ex-Union minister MJ Akbar had filed a "false and malicious case" against her to create a "chilling effect" among all women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at his hands.

"It is unfortunate that women who experienced sexual harassment at workplaces must now defend themselves in criminal proceedings to speak the truth," she said.

 MJ Akbar diverting attention from misconduct through defamation case, Priya Ramani tells Delhi court

File photos of MJ Akbar and Priya Ramani.

Ramani, who accused Akbar of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo campaign, said that she spoke the "truth" in "public interest".

Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India. He resigned as minister on 17 October last year.

"The complainant has filed a false case against me. Through his testimony he feigned ignorance about my truth and my story," Ramani told the court in her deposition.

"It is an attempt to intimidate me. By deliberately targeting me, the complainant seeks to divert the attention away from the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him and public the outrage that followed," she said.

She told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that her allegations against Akbar, her former boss, were "factual" and the "truth".

"It is false that Akbar had an impeccable reputation. It is wrong to suggest that he is a perfect gentleman holding a good reputation in the society. Many women, including me, had different experiences," Ramani said.

"All editors are hardworking men or women, keeping long working hours and travelling for political stories for journalism. There was nothing special about the complainant. It is false that my tweets affected his reputation. I spoke the truth and there was no deliberate attempt to harm the complainant's reputation," Ramani said.

She added that in October 2017, the #MeToo movement in the US emboldened countless women to share their experiences of sexual harassment at the workplace.

"In that context, I wrote the Vogue article addressed as titled, 'To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world', where I spoke about many women's experiences with many male bosses. I began the story with my experience with MJ Akbar but I did not name him," Ramani said.

"One year later, when the #MeToo movement came to India and many women in my industry — the media started speaking up about their story of sexual harassment, I felt that as a senior journalist my responsibility is to remove the cloak of anonymity."

"I decided to name the editor in that Vogue article. I spoke the truth in public interest and in the context of #MeToo movement I finally had the courage and platform to name the complainant," she said.

The court will now hear the matter on 7 September 2019.

Ramani accused Akbar of engaging in sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. He has denied the accusations.

Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in the article in Vogue and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary and that "immediate damage" was caused to him due to the "false" allegations by Ramani. Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist.

Akbar has termed the allegations "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2019 21:57:52 IST