MJ Akbar's counsel says Priya Ramani did not follow due process of law: 'Cannot raise awareness by maligning someone'

Referring to the cross-examination conducted by Ramani's lawyer Rebecca John, Luthra said the journalist did not have statements, witnesses or material evidence to back her allegations.

FP Staff January 12, 2021 19:16:46 IST
MJ Akbar's counsel says Priya Ramani did not follow due process of law: 'Cannot raise awareness by maligning someone'

File images of MJ Akbar and Priya Ramani. PTI

In today's hearing of in the defamation suit filed by MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani, the former Union minister's advocate, Geeta Luthra, continued her final arguments.

During the #MeToo movement in 2018, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct in an incident dating nearly three decades ago.

Referring to the cross-examination conducted by Ramani's lawyer Rebecca John, Luthra said the journalist did not have statements, witnesses or material evidence to back her allegations. "You make an allegation, I denied that. You have an onus to prove it, you haven't discharged the onus. Where is the onus in this case? There has to be a proof," she added, as per a report by Live Law.

According to Luthra, Ramani's counsel has put forth 'suggestions' in the court, which cannot effectively prove someone's case. "Whether you make a whisper [sic] that a person is a thief, or a cheat or anything that cast imputations on him, you have to back it with evidence," Luthra further added.

A major chunk of the arguments presented by Luthra were in relation to the alleged meeting that took place between Akbar and Ramani at a hotel in Nariman Point in 1993. Ramani alleged that the former Asian Age editor had engaged in sexual misconduct during the meeting on the pretext of a job interview. Luthra denied the allegations saying there was no CCTV footage or evidence of a conversation or any other record to prove the claim.

Akbar's representative also argued that Ramani had failed to comply with legal procedures by taking to social media instead of seeking legal recourse, which shows that the former member of Rajya Sabha was accused of sexual harassment with mala fide intentions. "If at all you had a criminal course of action, which you had none, you had remedies available in law from 1860. Since when do we have the IPC? 1860. Lord Macaulay made IPC. It has a section 509. It's not a recent provision. There is a National Commission for Women, there is Vishakha judgment. There is CEDAW Convention. If you say you want to drink water but do not take a glass to drink it, then you cannot say you have no remedy. There is always a remedy, but you did not choose to take recourse of law."

On the issue of whether Ramani had spoken up for public good, Luthra said that the complainant could have approached the Ministry of Defense or any appropriate authority to bring attention to the alleged incident. "Public good doesn't mean that you can malign somebody. When you are making public statements about somebody, you need to be respectful and mindful in doing so."

In the previous hearing, Luthra had said that Akbar had an "unblemished reputation" till Ramani stepped forward to level allegations. Additionally, she maintained that Ramani's counsel had only begun to question Akbar's reputation in the later stages of the court battle.

The next hearing will now occur on 14 January.

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