Former Union Minister M J Akbar told a Delhi court Friday that journalist Priya Ramani — against whom he has filed a defamation case — did not bring up sexual harassment allegations so far and was now “jumping onto the #MeToo bandwagon”.
Ramani had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against Akbar, who subsequently resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs and filed a defamation case against her.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Akbar, was making her final arguments before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Paruja. The arguments could not be concluded and will be taken up on February 28.
So far, the prosecution and defence have both produced their evidence in court. Lawyers from both sides will be submitting their final arguments before the court reserves its judgment.
Luthra started off her arguments by reading Akbar’s original complaint to the judge and added: “Unless the person has some defence, on the face of it, it (the allegation) is defamatory. When a person says I have an M J Akbar story and you don’t name him… why name him now? What could be the public good you are doing? Unless you are jumping onto the bandwagon… There was no reason for her (Ramani) to keep quiet all this time. Why are you speaking up now? Are you speaking up genuinely? Are you speaking up because #MeToo has come or because he has become a minister?”
Through the course of the hearing, Luthra read out excerpts of Ramani’s article from Vogue magazine, which she said was generic in nature and never clarified that the whole piece was not about Akbar. Reading further from Akbar’s complaint, she added: “This is not a communication… in the interest to warn someone. It is deliberately malifide, malicious… Can you ask a man to answer for these incidents that you allege took place 25 years ago. Did anybody understand that it was a generic article? Did anybody understand it that way? Did my wife or witnesses understand it that way?”
Luthra went on to say that if Ramani had a grievance, she should have raised it with the concerned authorities.
“Can you tarnish anybody’s life without evidence? That person will not have phone records, registers, you can actually say anything. There has to be some fairness. We can’t be a social media country,” Luthra told the court.
Luthra also questioned if Ramani could call Akbar a predator. She read out the definition of a predator and a pervert to the ACMM and turned to the original complaint: “My readers do not understand that only one line pertains to me. What sense does a layman get? It says that the man is a predator, a pervert, and it is about MJ Akbar,” she read.
Luthra also referred to subsequent tweets by Ramani pertaining to Akbar’s resignation. “You want him to resign from the government. This is what you say is your victory. What is your motive? It is just to tarnish his image, bring down the person,” Luthra stipulated.
Wrapping up her arguments for the day, Luthra also told the court that Akbar had built his reputation over years and wrote extensively on south Asia. “In that sense, the country needs such people,” she said.
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