MJ Akbar defamation case: Ex-minister accuses Priya Ramani of knowingly tarnishing his reputation; next hearing on 17 March

Former Union minister MJ Akbar told a Delhi court on saturday that journalist Priya Ramani had defamed him with full knowledge that her actions would harm his reputation

FP Staff February 29, 2020 15:26:28 IST
MJ Akbar defamation case: Ex-minister accuses Priya Ramani of knowingly tarnishing his reputation; next hearing on 17 March
  • Former Union Minister MJ Akbar told a Delhi court on saturday that journalist Priya Ramani had defamed him with full knowledge that her actions would harm his reputation

  • Akbar made the allegations before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja through his lawyer Geeta Luthra during the final hearing of a private criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the Me Too campaign raged on in India

  • Luthra argued that educated people like journalists have to act responsibly; she said that any news on social media travels like fire.

Former Union Minister MJ Akbar told a Delhi court on Saturday that journalist Priya Ramani defamed him with full knowledge that her actions would harm his reputation.

Akbar made the allegations before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja through his lawyer Geeta Luthra during the final hearing of a private criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged in India.

Luthra argued that educated people like journalists have to act responsibly. She said that any news on social media travels like fire. She said that people have to have a great sense of responsibility in making claims about someone's conduct. Luthra claimed that Ramani first said that her entire article was about Akbar, but later in court said that it wasn't the case.

"After writing a whole article, saying that it was about Mr Akbar, it was for the first time in this court that they say that the entire article was not about him. Where does it say that? There was no corrigendum, no apology... you did it with knowledge," Bar and Bench quoted her as saying.

MJ Akbar defamation case Exminister accuses Priya Ramani of knowingly tarnishing his reputation next hearing on 17 March

File image of former Union minister MJ Akbar. Reuters

"There are four offending tweets and an article. According to one she says he didn't do anything. In the next, she starts the blame game and the person is left defenseless. Then she says it's a victory. Then she says she intended it generally and not against him. This is the first time she has accepted that the entire Vogue article was not about him," Luthra said.

She further argued that Ramani's intent to defame Akbar matters more because as a journalist she was aware of the consequences of her actions. She also claimed that it is indisputable that Akbar suffered massive damage to his reputation, which even lead him to resign as a Union minister.

Akbar resigned as Union minister on 17 October, 2018.

Ramani in 2018 accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist. She worked at The Asian Age from January to October in 1994.

The court adjourned the matter after Luthra's arguments were concluded. Senior advocate Rebecca John will argue on Ramani's behalf on 17 March.

Earlier Friday, Luthra argued that Ramani harmed Akbar's reputation by calling him adjectives such as 'media's biggest predator' in the wake of #MeToo movement.

Luthra, said that the allegations were intentional and malafide. "When you call someone media's biggest predator, it is per se defamatory. Calling a person with such adjectives is on the face of it defamatory. In the eyes of the people, Akbar's reputation was harmed... The per se effect was lowering of my (Akbar) reputation in the eyes of the right thinking members of the society," she told the court.

She said there was no due process in the allegations.

"It has a cascading effect. Embarrassing questions were asked. I (Akbar) am a person of greatest integrity... There was no due process in the allegations. You cannot just make allegation and let that person suffer," she added.

Luthra said that if there was any grievance, it had to be raised then and there before the appropriate authority.

"We need to realise the effect has what we say or what we do. It's not like she went to any authority or raised any grievance. Opportunity was there, rights were there but to attack so person behind their back on social media... knowing that his whole life will be adversely affected? It's not right," she said.

Akbar has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign.

Akbar earlier told the court the allegations made in the Vogue piece and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on their face and that an "immediate damage" was caused to him due to the "false" allegations by Ramani.

Ramani earlier told the court that her "disclosure" of alleged sexual harassment by Akbar came at "a great personal cost" and she had "nothing to gain" from it.

She said her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at the workplace.

Several women came up with accounts of the alleged sexual harassment by Akbar while they were working as journalists under him.

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

With inputs from agencies

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