Journalist Priya Ramani on Monday told a Delhi court that the defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar has come at a “great personal cost” to her, and that she has “nothing to gain from it”.
Ramani told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACCM) Samar Vishal, “… It is not easy for any women to make such disclosures. By keeping silent, I could have avoided the subsequent targeting, but that would not have been the right thing to do.”
She told the court, “It was important and necessary for women to speak up about sexual harassment at workplace. Many of us are brought up to believe that silence is a virtue.”
Ramani said that in all her disclosures about Akbar, her former editor at The Asian Age newspaper, she spoke the truth in public interest and for public good. “It was my hope that the disclosures, which were part of the ‘MeToo’ movement, would empower women to speak up and better understand their rights at workplace,” she said.
Last year, Ramani had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against Akbar, who subsequently resigned as Union Minister of State for External Affairs and filed the defamation case.
After Ramani wrapped up her examination-in-chief, Akbar’s counsel, senior advocate Geeta Luthra, began her cross-examination, which could not be concluded and is expected to commence on October 24.
Examination-in-chief is a court process in which lawyers asks their first questions to their own witness.
Luthra asked Ramani whether her “so-called dream” of being a journalist was not contingent upon her being hired specifically by The Asian Age. Ramani replied in the affirmative and added, “It was not a so-called dream. The Asian Age was a good opportunity to realise that dream.”
Luthra told ACMM Vishal that Ramani must only answer in Yes or No and not give her own suggestions, to which the judge replied, “You cannot dictate the witness’ answers. If you do not allow her to speak, then this whole trial will be vitiated.”
Luthra then asked that if there were no vacancies at The Asian Age at the time, would Ramani have stopped pursuing journalism. Ramani’s counsel, senior advocate Rebecca John, objected and said, “This question is speculative and hypothetical.”
ACMM Vishal said he will take a call at the time of judgment.
Ramani then replied, “No.”
Luthra asked whether the reason she took up the job with The Asian Age was that “no such interview, in the circumstances as alleged by you, ever happened”. Ramani replied, “It is incorrect.”
Luthra then asked, “More than two decades later you have maliciously and intentionally concocted this story to damage Mr Akbar’s reputation. By publishing this story (in Vogue magazine), you published false news…”
Ramani told the court that both questions were incorrect.
Luthra also asked Ramani whether she knew that the Indian Penal Code has provisions for redress of sexual harassment cases, and whether she was aware of the Vishaka judgment. Ramani replied that she was not aware about the IPC but was aware about the Vishaka guidelines.