Journalist Priya Ramani, facing trial in a defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar, has told a Delhi court through her lawyer that speaking up on the #MeToo platform was not a crime and that these are “acts of extreme courage that require celebration”.
Ramani’s lawyer and Senior Advocate Rebecca John made the arguments before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Pandey on Monday. Her arguments could not be concluded and will be heard on December 18.
Akbar has sued Ramani for defamation over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. With several other women making similar allegations against him, Akbar had resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs.
While reading out the testimony of Joyeeta Basu, who deposed in favour of Akbar, John told the court, “What is the credibility of this witness who was ready to be a witness for Akbar even before legal action was taken?”
On Akbar’s witness Sunil Gujral’s testimony, John told the court, “This man is a friend. The families know each other. He extended a loan to MJ Akbar. It is strange that when so many women made allegations against Akbar, he only saw Ramani’s tweets. What is his credibility?”
After reading through journalist Ghazala Wahab’s testimony in which she accused Akbar of sexual harassment, John told the court, “I am establishing a pattern of behaviour. Wahab’s statement is not hearsay. She tells us a story. It is direct evidence.”
On the #MeToo movement, John told the court, “It wasn’t a crime to speak up on the MeToo platform. These are acts of extreme courage that require celebration. These are not acts for which one should face defamation.”