Concluding her final arguments before a Delhi court on Saturday, former Union minister M J Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra submitted that for some people, their reputation is more valuable than their life.
Journalist Priya Ramani had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against Akbar, who subsequently resigned as Union Minister of State for External Affairs in October 2018 and filed a defamation case against her.
Luthra, who was arguing before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, submitted, “Educated people like journalists have to act responsibly. Any news on social media travels like wildfire. People have to have a great sense of responsibility…. After writing a whole article, saying that it was about Mr Akbar…it was for the first time in court that they said that the entire article was not about him…”
“There was no corrigendum, no apology. You did it with knowledge,” Luthra said about an article by Ramani.
The court has set March 17 as the next date of hearing, when Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John will address her final arguments.
While arguing that conditions for defamation are met in this case, Luthra told the court, “The intention or knowledge or reason to believe is to be seen. Even if we apply the strictest of standards, the conditions are met in this case…. The law envisages: did any right-thinking person find it defamatory? This test is not required in the case of per se defamatory.”
For some people, she submitted, “their reputation may be more valuable than their life.”
Reading a judgment of the Bombay High court, Luthra said, “Reputation is understood as what your neighbours and others see (about) you. It is a form of hearsay, but admitted on the ground of necessity.”
Arguing that Ramani’s allegations were irresponsible, Luthra told the court, “When something is per se defamatory, I have a cause of action – 60-70 years of one’s life, and you can’t just wash it away by something irresponsible (accusation)…”
During the end of the hearing, Luthra told the court that about Ramani’s tweets: “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 defenceless. Then she says it’s a victory. Then she says she intended it generally, and not against him.”
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