A trial by social media is unacceptable in a country which follows rule of law, former Union minister M J Akbar — who has filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment — told a Delhi court through his lawyers on Saturday.
Akbar has sued Ramani 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 in October 2018.
The submissions were made by senior advocate Geeta Luthra on behalf of Akbar before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey. Her rebuttal could not be completed and will be heard again on January 27.
Luthra began by telling the court that a journalist does not have special privileges. “Press council says you have to be responsible. There are judgments that say you cannot have a parallel trial. Here there is just a trial…by a person on social media. It is unacceptable in a country ruled by rule of law. Fair comment does not extend to defamatory comments,” Luthra told the court.
On Ramani’s witnesses, Luthra told the court that Niloufer Venkatraman was an interested witness and Ghazala Wahab gave a version of a story which was “unconnected to the present case”.
While discussing Niloufer’s testimony, Luthra told the court the sexual harassment incident was said to be from November-December 1993, and Nilofer said it was December 1993. “There is improvement. Both people have photographic memory but don’t remember the day,” Luthra told the court.