Concluding her arguments in the criminal defamation case filed by M J Akbar, journalist Priya Ramani’s lawyer Friday told a Delhi court that the former Union Minister, who is facing sexual misconduct accusations, had played a fraud on the court and had not approached it with clean hands.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John submitted before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Pandey that Akbar had singled out Ramani and failed to mention that other women, too, had made allegations of sexual harassment against him.
“In the entire complaint, Akbar refers to the tweets and articles by Priya Ramani. When a person tries to establish defamation on the basis of sexual harassment allegations, was it not incumbent to make a fair disclosure about the fact that as many as 15 women made allegations against him?” she asked.
John argued that “while a lot of onus has been put on me for being fair, shouldn’t the complainant bear the same responsibility? He should have said that the other women have made allegations which are also false”.
“Not having mentioned such serious allegations and singling out Priya Ramani, Akbar is guilty of concealing material particulars. A litigant must approach the court with clean hands,” the advocate submitted. “You are trying to gain an unfair advantage over the other side. The failure of Mr Akbar in mentioning allegations by other women and pretending that Ramani’s statement defamed him, Mr Akbar has not come to the court with clean hands and played a fraud on the court.”
Akbar’s lawyers will now make their rebuttal to John’s final arguments on December 22.
Akbar has sued Ramani for defamation over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. With several other women making similar allegations against him, Akbar resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs.
John told the court that there was no mechanism in the Asian Age newspaper, where Ramani was working at the time of the alleged instance of sexual misconduct, to deal with complaints of that nature.
She said: “Truth is painful but you seek to serve a larger purpose. It has not been easy to say all this. It has taken a toll on her. But sometimes it is cowardly if one does not speak the truth…Some women had worse experiences than Priya Ramani. Why was Ramani singled out in this manner. This creates doubt on the credibility of the complainant.”