MJ Akbar (L), Priya Ramani (R)
MJ Akbar (L), Priya Ramani (R)
Litigation News

Priya Ramani's tweets, Vogue article were her truth: Rebecca John makes final arguments against MJ Akbar’s defamation case [LIVE UPDATES]

The Court of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue is hearing MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case filed against Priya Ramani for levelling sexual harassment allegations against Akbar.

Bar & Bench

The Court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue is hearing former Union Minister, MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani for her allegations of sexual harassment against Akbar.

Judge Vishal Pahuja is hearing the matter.

The last hearing was held in February 2020 when Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra concluded her final submissions on behalf of MJ Akbar.

Read more on the last hearing:

Senior Advocate Rebecca John will now begin final arguments on behalf of Priya Ramani.

Live updates of the hearing today feature on this page.

I've spoken to my friend on the other side. I will try to be as brief as possible: Senior Advocate Rebecca John

It's been a while since this case was taken up prior to the lockdown. I will start today by stating what the case against me is: John for Priya Ramani.

I will first state the complaint and the documents etc. There will concentrate on the post summoning statement. I will then deal with the requirements of law. And then go on to state my defense: John

Rebecca John
Rebecca John

I will refute some of the objections. I will also deal with the burden of proof: John

John refers to the complaint made by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani in October 2018.

John reads the complaint.

Akbar had called Ramani's allegations as a figment of her imagination and fabricated non-events.

John continues to take the Court through the complaint filed by MJ Akbar.

Before I go further, I would like the court to look at the essential exhibits in the case: John urges Judge Pahuja to take a look at the Vogue article written by Priya Ramani.

I will break down the article but I would like your honour to go through the article: John, as she reads the Vogue Article titled 'To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World'.

The only thing I'd like to highlight here is that there are two portions of the article. It is Priya Ramani's case that only a portion refers to MJ Akbar: John

John reads the tweet made by Priya Ramani on her 'MJ Akbar story'.

This portion is exhibited: John

The next tweet is of October 10 i.e. two days later: John reads the next tweet on "media's biggest sexual predator"

The next exhibit is a tweet from October 13, 2018 : John as she reads Ramani's tweet.

There is an article from Washington Post by Barkha Dutt: John proceeds.

The other exhibited article is from Mint : John

Third article is by Firstpost: John

All of these were sought to be proved by their witness, Manzar Ali. This is their documentary evidence. There are oral testimonies as well : John

The Vogue article was written by me. It is an admission. It is their case that the entire article refers to MJ Akbar. My case is that only the first four paragraphs are about him. The rest is about other male bosses: John

The tweets dated October 8, 10 and 13 from 2018 are admitted. I wrote and published them: John

Of course, I didn't write the other articles exhibited by the ye complainant: John

John reads the list of dates in the case.

It is my case that after I completed by PG in America, I came back on 13 November 1993. In December 1993, Priya Ramani went to The Asian Age office in Bombay to give her biodata : John

On the same date I was called to the Oberoi Hotel by MJ Akbar. Prior to going to the Hotel, I met Nilofer. And I spoke to her later that night to tell her what had happened: John

After joining the Delhi Office of Asian Age, I joined the Bombay office and remained there till October 1994 when she quit .. : John

I wrote the Vogue Article on October 12, 2017 in the backdrop of the Me Too movement. In October 2018, the movement had reached India: John

On October 6, 2018, Ghazala Wahab tweeted against MJ Akbar and asked when the flood would open. It is admitted that thereafter I published the three tweets: John

After my first tweet on October 8, 2018, Nilofer WhatsApped me (it is exhibited) and there is reference to the incidents of November-December 1993. I will use Nilofer's testimony for corroboration : John

On October 10, 2018, Ghazala Wahab published a detailed article on The Wire on her experience at the hands of MJ Akbar: John

October 15, 2018, the complaint was filed against me: John

I was summoned. Notice was framed on April 10, 2019. I pleaded not guilty and also pressed my defense: John

John tells the Court that subsequently the witness statements of MJ Akbar were cross-examined.

On August 23, 2019, my statement was examined: John

I had two defence witnesses. Nilofer and Ghazala: John

If the court were to look at Sec 499 IPC.. I will read the first para: John

What has Priya Ramani published? The Article and the Tweets. I own the Article and the three tweets: John

First part of first para of Sec 499 stands satisfied. I contest that the entire Article relates to MJ Akbar: John

Offence of defamation is not an absolute offence. It is a justifiable offence: John

The second ingredient of the offence is "intent to harm or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm.. interlinked with reputation".

This will be proved by the justification tendered by an accused : John

John reads the Notice framed in the case.

I pleaded truth as my defence made in public interest and public good : John

John reads the first exception to Defamation.

It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person of it is for public good.. : John

A true imputation made in public good is not defamation: John

John reads the 9th exception.

It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another when it is made in good faith for protection of his or other's interest: John

John reads the third exception.

It is not defamation when it pertains to conduct of any person touching any public question: John

My case is an affirmative defence. It is the truth, is in good faith, touching public good: John

If I prove that I fall within exceptions, the complaint cannot stand: John

I will prove how Priya Ramani's case falls within the exception 1 and 9 linked with exception 3: John

Priya Ramani's alleged defamatory tweets and the Vogue article were her truth: John

John referes to MJ Akbar's 's post summoning statement on the filing of the complaint. John reads the statement.

John reads Akbar's statement on how Ramani's conduct resulted in "aggravated defamation".

John continues to read MJ Akbar's statement.

(Ramani's false accusations) damaged a lifetime of good reputation.. : John reads

John reads the cross examination.

John reads the portion pertaining to Akbar's cross examination with respect to his political career.

John continues to read Akbar's cross examination.

"Incorrect that I called Ramani to my Hotel Room .. wrong to suggest that Ramani went to be room.." : John reads Akbar's cross examination in which he denied having met Priya Ramani

John continues to read Akbar's cross examination.

"I cannot recall if Ramani joined the Delhi Office (of Asian Age).." : John reads

"The entire article referred to me.. In the tweet she confessed that the entire article was about me": John continues to read Akbar's cross examination.

John reads the part wherein Akbar's denied having read the articles written on Harvey Weinstein.

"It is wrong to suggest that I deliberately misinterpreted (the Vouge article).." : John reads the account.

"I have not read the tweets (by Ghazala Wahab and Shunali Kullar Shroff).. I do not recall if Ms Shroff worked in the Asian Age.." : John continues to read Akbar's cross examination.

John reads Akbar's response to the sexual harrassment allegations made by other female journalists.

"I refuted the allegations made by Ms Ghazala Wahab..": John reads Akbar's cross examination.

"It is correct that I made a public statement on October 14, 2018 on the allegations against me": John reads Akbar's statement on his return from Africa in October 2018 and his subsequent complaint against Priya Ramani only.

John reads Akbar's response to the Washington Post article by journalist Pallavi Gogoi.

"I have not filed any complaint against Pallavi Gogoi and Washington Post..": John reads

John reads Akbar's assertion that Ramani's tweets were "spun out of lies".

John reads Akbar's statement on being aware of the Me Too movement to a certain extent. 

These statements by Mr Akbar would not be fully understood. But if I can ask the court to once again come to the Firstpost article.. Priya Ramani and Prerna Singh Bhindra's tweets are inserted. There is a reference to Shutappa Paul, Ghazala Wahab, Kadambari Wade... : John

There are Shuma Raha's tweets etc. It was filed by them along with their complaint. But Mr Akbar, in his cross examination, says he has read the Firstpost article: John

Contextually he has proved the article.. he said he was aware of them. When I separately showed the tweets, they were marked and not exhibited. Questions pertaining to the tweets, allegations made by other women were known to Mr Akbar: John

Whether he accepts or not is a different question. But he was aware of the fact that several women had made allegations against him: John

The other thing is about Ms Ghazala Wahab who is my witness. (MJ Akbar said )"I have not read the tweets by Ms Ghazala Wahab...I am aware that Ms Wahab had written an article": John

John reads Akbar's response to Pallavi Gogoi's allegations and his statement to ANI denying the allegations.

John reads Akbar's public statement on his "consensual relationship" with Pallavi Gogoi.

John reads the public statement issued by MJ Akbar's wife on Pallavi Gogoi.

What Mr Akbar says with respect to Pallavi Gogoi is not central to the case but it reveals a pattern of behavior : John

It is not of much relevance to me beyond this. The complainant and his wife issued a statement. There was a substantial age and power difference between Akbar and Gogoi: John

I need to explain my Vogue article. I put several articles to Mr Akbar (during the proceedings). In the end, I said that the marked portions in the Vogue article are extracted from these articles: John

They have erroneously assumed that the entire article was on Mr Akbar. The quoted portions in the Vogue article were sourced from other articles: John

John refers to the political life of MJ Akbar.

The earlier part of his political life, I believe, he chose not to talk about: John

I had every right to test his verasity. I asked him if he was ever convicted and found guilty. He apologized to the High Court (for false reporting), something he didn't remember earlier: John

He does remember that Priya worked in the Bombay office and that she quit later. He has denied the incident in the Hotel room: John on Akbar's response to Ramani's allegations

I'm sorry I took so much time (with the evidence).. : John

We have all the time in the world: Court

I'm saying this is my truth. We will come to Priya Ramani's statement : John

Court rises for lunch. Hearing to resume at 2.30 pm.

Court re-assembles. 

Judge Vishal Pahuja says it won't be possible to hear the case today.

Court suggests adjourning the matter till September 8.

Hearing adjourned till September 8.

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