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

Could have kept silent, but that would not have been right: Priya Ramani in MJ Akbar’s defamation case [LIVE UPDATES from the final hearing]

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 in the matter was held on September 5, an account of which can be read here.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John is now making final arguments on behalf of Priya Ramani.

Live updates of the hearing today feature on this page.

Court assembles.

On the last of hearing, I had taken the court through the statements..I had taken the defence of truth : John begins.

Moving forward, the next important piece of material is my own Sec 313, CrPC statement : John

I don't have to read all questions.. this is specifically with respect to the unnecessary controversy: John reads Ramani's statement on the Vogue article not being entirely about MJ Akbar and pertained to male bosses.

John reads Ramani's statement on how the complaint was an attempt to intimidate those who had spoken against MJ Akbar.

John reads the Ramani's statement on her interview with MJ Akbar in Mumbai's Oberoi Hotel.

John reads her statement on how the Vogue article came to be.

I felt a responsibility to remove the cloak of anonymity: John reads Ramani's statement on how she decided to name MJ Akbar publically in the backdrop of the MeToo movement in India.

I spoke the truth in public interest.. I was deliberately targeted to divert attention from the other serious allegations against MJ Akbar: John reads Ramani's statement

John now reads Ramani's statement as a defence witness. John reads Ramani's professional profile.

John reads Ramani's statement on her interview with MJ Akbar at The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai.

Mr Akbar asked me to come up to his room. I was silent.. I did not feel that I could dictate the terms of the interview: John reads Ramani's statement.

He asked me many personal questions.. he offered me an alcoholic beverage..I refused.. he started singing old Hindi songs.. He gestured to me to come sit next to him in the tiny space: John continues

John reads Ramani's statement on how she shared what had happened with her friend, Nilofer.

I swore I would never be in a room alone with him : John reads the statement on Ramani taking the job at the Delhi Office of Asian Age in January 1994.

I never worked with Mr Akbar again (after quitting in 10 months): John reads Ramani's statement.

I never named him in the Vouge article. The first four paragraphs were about what happened in the Oberoi Hotel in 1993: John reads

John reiterates that the remaining portion of the article were not about MJ Akbar but other male bosses.

The remaining portion is from other articles written about Harvey Weinstein: John reads

John reads Ramani's statement on her tweets and the allegations made by other women against MJ Akbar on Twitter.

Seeing all these women, I felt complelled to speak: John reads.

I never named him because he did not "do" anything. Sexual harrassment can be physical and verbal.. (Absense of anything physical) did not excuse him sexually coloured behaviour : John reads Ramani's statement

A predator is more powerful than his prey: John reads Ramani's statement

John reads Ramani's statement on how Nilofer WhatsApped her after the tweet.

Some women replied to my tweet, some wrote their own articles: John reads

On October 14, 2018, I learnt that Mr Akbar had returned from his foreign visit. By then more than 12 women had come out against him : John reads Ramani's statement.

I issued a statement after I learnt that Mr Akbar had filed a complaint against me

Several women who worked at the Asian Age from 1993-2011 said that they were willing to testify: John reads

It was important and necessary for women to speak up. Women are taught that silence is a virtue.. this case has come at a great personal cost. I have nothing to gain.. by keeping silence I could have avoided (at lot of trouble). But that would not have been right: John reads

At this point in time, it is stated that Ramani confided in Nilofer. After Ramani tweeted in Oct 2018, there was a WhatsApp exchange between Ramani and Nilofer: John

I will deal with the admissibility aspect: John

There are two messages from Oct 8, 2018 : John reads the message from Nilofer to Ramani

The message was contained in Ramani's phone which was examined by the court : John

The first tweet went up on October 8, 2018. It says "I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story..". From the very beginning, she made it clear that she only began the piece with her MJ Akbar story : John

If she wrote the entire article about MJ Akbar, she would have said so: John

This was at least 8 days before the complaint was filed. There is spontaneous corroboration of Ramani's truth : John on Niloger's message to Ramani on October 8.

This underlines the fact that a very serious offence that taken place: John on Nilofer remembering the incident which had happened 25 years ago

John reads Ramani's cross examination by Complainant counsel.

It (being a journalist) was not a so called dream. Asian Age was a good place to start that dream : John reads Ramani's cross examination statement on her applying at the Asian Age.

I am aware of the Vishakha guidelines: John reads Ramani's cross examination state

I am not aware of the sexual harassment law before the Vishakha guidelines in 1997: John continues to read Ramani's cross examination statement.

John continues to read Ramani's cross examination.

It is wrong to suggest that I made these allegations to maliciously malign his image : John continues to read.

John reads the Ramani's cross examination on her last tweet on "big victory" after Akbar's resignation.

I later realised that the news piece on Akbar's resignation was wrong : John reads Ramani's statement

My tweet was an honest mistake: John further reads

John reads Ramani's cross examination on her claim that apart from the first four paragraphs of the Vogue article, the remaining portion was taken from articles written by other people.

John reads Ramani's cross examination on deleting her Twitter account.

It is wrong to sugegst that by deleting my Twitter account I have interfered with the trial: John reads

John reads Ramani's cross examination on calling MJ Akbar a sexual predator.

John reads Ramani's cross examination on the number of retweets to her tweets on MJ Akbar.

It is wrong to suggest that I made the tweets recklessly : John continues to further read the cross examination.

Nilofer's message to me was not sent with the intention to fabricate false evidence : John continues to read.

The screenshot (of the message) is not tampered with : John reads.

It is wrong to suggest that I made the allegations with extraneous motives..: John reads

It was a long testimony. I would like to deconstruct and highlight certain aspects: John

Ramani is a journalist of eminence. She is no less eminent than MJ Akbar: John argues

She has deposed before the Court about the incident. She went to the Asian Age Office to submit her application because being a new newspaper, the opportunities were great: John

She asked Nilofer to meet her before the interview. She was 23. It was her first interview. Nilofer prepped her for the interview. She has given a detailed testimony on what happened once she entered the Hotel: John

She's silent and uncomfortable. Because if her young age, she doesn't know ..She gives a detailed account of the uncomfortable questions.. She fears for her physical safety and leaves the room. Then he tells her that somebody would get in touch with her: John

She shows as evidence of corroboration, the message she received from Nilofer hours after she tweeted. The message has very clear evidence of the events of November-December 1993: John

A bit of a stretch to say that the message was sent preemptively to form her defence in a criminal complaint: John

The title of the Vogue article is "To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World".. it is in plural : John

The first four paragraphs are on MJ Akbar and of course, look at the similarity : John

John reads the article.

The following paragraph begins with"all these years later, the world has changed but yoru species remains the same..": John

The phrases in inverted commas refer to other articles. She need not source it explicitly. It's journalism and not a PhD paper: John

Extracted portions are in inverted commas. Even in her tweet she says that she "began" the article with her MJ Akbar story: John

The article ends with "We will get you all one day".. she's talking about multiple women in the second last paragraph. Can there by any rationale basis for the allegation that complainant is making? : John

When she is not denying that the first four paragraphs pertain to MJ Akbar, what stops her from saying that even the latter part was about Akbar? : John

She has consistently said that only the first four paragraphs pertain to MJ Akbar: John

What Ramani says about the structure of the article should be the last word: John

She was not the first person to tweet about Akbar. She also a tweet on 6.10.2018 from Ghazala Wahab who is a defence witness. There were tweets by Shunali Kullar Shroff, Prerna Singh Bhindra: John

These are women in responsible positions, speaking responsibly: John

The predecessor Judge had himself seen Nilofer's message on Ramani's phone : John

She accepts that she made an honest mistake when she retweeted a wrong news article on MJ Akbar's resignation. At it turns on, he did resign a few days earlier: John

A lot is said on her issuing a corrigendum. It is irrelevant and does not make her an irresponsible journalist: John

I need nobody's permission to delete my Twitter account. It was not evidence in the case. It is my democratic and constitutional right to do so. I was not ordered by court to not do so: John

I will come state the law after witness: John

Court breaks for lunch. Hearing to resume at 2.15 pm.

Hearing resumes.

John asks Court to take a look at her cross examination of MJ Akbar.

This is in context of the Vogue article. He says that it is self-evident that the article is about the "Harvey Weinsteins" of the world: John

He says that it is self evident that Ramani tweeted that she "began" the article with her MJ Akbar story. He contradicts his assertion that the entire article was on him : John

Nilofer's testimony requires to be read. Both in law and in fact, her evidence is relevant and admissible.. There is sufficient corroboration of Priya Ramani's truth : John

John reads Nilofer's testimony.

Ramani's tweet called out the sexual harrassment at the hands of Me Akbar .. : John reads Nilofer's testimony before Court.

John reads Nilofer's statement on being with Ramani on the day of the incident.

John reads Nilofer's statement on the messages sent to Ramani on October 8, 2018.

I told my daughter that Priya had spoken out ..: John reads Nilofer's statement.

John reads Nilofer's statement on how she became friends with Ramani.

Priya and I landed in Mumbai together on 13.11.1993..: John reads

John reads Nilofer's statement on Ramani calling her to tell her about the interview with MJ Akbar at The Oberoi Hotel and the events that followed.

Well after dinner time, Priya called me on my landline. She sounded upset and distraught.. : John reads

She described feeling uncomfortable..: John continues

The details that she described were so bizzare that I had a picture of it in my mind : John reads

It was inexperience and naivety with which I said that she should take the job : John reads

John reads Nilofer's cross examination.

John reads Nilofer's statement on denying allegations of fabricating evidence in anticipation of legal action from MJ Akbar.

John finishes reading the cross examination.

Let's keep aside the whatsapp message. Let us look at what she has stated. She says that she and Ramani returned to India on the same flight and remained in touch : John

She says she was aware of the interview. She says Priya came to her mother's office. They were minutes away from the Hotel. She prepped her and left her .. she is not claiming to be an eye witness: John

Nilofer later receives a call. Her statement is relevant under Section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act. It is known as res gestae: John

It forms part of the transaction : John

Her statements are interconnected with the facts in issue: John

John reads judgements to support her case.

John asks Judge Pahuja to refer to Surpreme Court's judgement in Kishan Kumar Malik vs State of Haryana.

Hearsay evidence becomes admissible under Section 6. It must almost be contemporaneous with the act and immediately thereafter: John

When Ramani and Nilofer both say that they were together before the interview and shared the experience, Nilofer's evidence is admissible. Nilofer is a res gestae witness. Any objection should be rejected: John

It is in this context that her message on October 2018 should be seen when she says "OMG, OMG.. 25 years.." The WhatsApp evidence is of such ... quality that her statement is corroborated: John

Here is a witness of impeccable quality. A witness who is an achiever and does not have to lie : John

Here is a witness who is not shying away. Her tweet and evidence is of outmost important. She corroborates Ramani's truth: John

John stresses that the WhatsApp message was sent on the same day as the tweet was made by Ramani and was thus not an afterthought.

John reads another judgment passed by Delhi High Court.

Nilofer's evidence must be read to corroborate Ramani's truth. Her claims are corroborated by her Whatsapp message which was sent spontaneously to Ramani. To reject her evidence would defy all common sense : John

MJ Akbar suggested that the message of sent to create a defence. The suggestion of afterthought means that they are admitting that the message was indeed sent. Priya had shown the phone to Court: John

Ramani's stand is credible, reliable and she has not shaken on material facts. They shyed away from the Hotel incident. You can prove that he was not there that he never stayed at the Hotel. But they didn't because Ramani is speaking the truth: John

I have proved my truth. Nilofer's testimony cannot be rejected: John

During testimony, Nilofer said that she had her phone with her. But no examination of her mobile was done because the message is there: John

Much is said about the fact that message says "Nov - Dec 1993".. what is wrong with that? November they came back to India. It is my time period: John

Exception to Section 499 IPC talks of good faith. What is good faith? It is defined in IPC: John

The tweets were based on Ramani's own experience with MJ Akbar. Her experience is the fulcrum on which good faith rests. It is validated subsequently by the combined experience of multiple women making similar allegations: John

Ramani tweeted that 10 women painted the portrait of media's biggest sexual predator. It didn't end with these ten. Many were published after this tweet. One of which MJ Akbar said was a consensual relationship: John

This is her good faith: John reads Ramani's tweets.

Ramani has invoked a part of Exception 9 because it was based on her own experience and that of multiple women who spoke publicly: John

As per law, this good faith must also be for public good too.. Ramani said it was important for women to speak about about sexual harassment at the workplace: John

John again reads Ramani's testimony.

Ramani hoped that the disclosure would empower women and encourage them to speak up. Silence is not an option, she says : John

Speaking out on sexual harrassment at workplace is in public good. Whether is came 20 years later etc. are issues that I would deal with. Can one contest that in October 2018, an avalanche took place in India : John

Speaking out on sexual harrassment at workplace is in public good. Whether is came 20 years later etc. are issues that I would deal with. Can one contest that in October 2018, an avalanche took place in India? : John

There cannot be a contest on the fact that this case revolves around a public question of great importance : John

John reads judgement in Vishakha case to show how the Surpreme Court first proceeded to deal with the issue of sexual harrassment at workplace.

The judgement was authored in 1997 when there were no legislative measures: John

A gap in the law was recognised by Surpreme Court in 1997. My incident is of 1993. Whom could have I complained to? Supreme Court here urges the Parliament to enact a law : John

Can we say this issue is not something which doesn't touch upon public interest?: John

The seminal guidelines were formed which later formed the basis of a legislation: John

1997, Supreme Court framed Vishakha guidelines and said how women could not be submitted to this form of inequality. The legislature sat on it. In 2013, in Medha Kotwal happened: John

In Medha Kotwal, the Supreme Court noted that many women still struggled as a statutory law was not in law: John

Then came, with so much judicial intervention, after 15 years, The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act in 2013 : John

Parallely, the Indian Penal Code got amended: John

John refers to Section 354A IPC.

This was not in place in 1993. This makes the offence of sexual harrassment at workplace penal in nature: John

Questions were asked to Ramani if she was aware of the sections which existed at the relevant time : John

John reads Section 354 IPC.

Section 354 is Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

In the facts of Ramani's case, could she have invoked Section 354? It's not tenable. As rightly stated, MJ Akbar didn't do anything. There was no overt physical act. Section 354 requires an overt physical act: John

Section 354A is different from Section 345 IPC.. Look at how much the law has changed from 1993: John

Legally, I could have not evoked sexual harrassment act because it was not in place. Section 354 IPC was inapplicable: John

There was no mechanism in place, even in courts: John

John reads Binu Tamta vs High Court of Delhi.

In 2014, in Binu Tamta, Supreme Court ordered the constitution of Committees in High Courts to deal with the issue of sexual harrassment at workplace/courts. Later, in 2015, guidelines were adopted by Surpreme Court to deal with the issue: John

To simply say that do you know CEDAW, do you know Vishakha, do you know the law.. women fought a long battle. Asian Age certainty did not have the mechanism in 1993: John

This reinforces by plea of public good and public important. It shows the... pace at which legislations came to be passed. The Act came in 1993 and IPC was amended to make sexual harrassment at workplace a penal offence: John

There was an absolute vaccum in 1993. This issues touches a public question and public good. Next landmark in the sphere was in 2018 when MeToo movement began in India: John

On social media, women called out bosses who sexually harassed them. The importance of MeToo cannot be underestimated whether the Court believes Priya's statement or not: John

I have established truth, public good, public interest and good faith before Court: John

They say I made these allegations because he's a member of a particular political party. The delay was on account of the fact that there was a vaccum in law and there was no platform either: John

I read Ghazala Wahab's experience. Women, at that time, were told to keep silent. It was a different world in 1993. I cannot say with confidence that that was a fair world. It took us all a lot of time to fight and establish out battles : John

John reads the last paragraph of Ramani's testimony.

I didn't do it for political motive. But even if I take the allegation at the highest, as per them, I waited 2 years since he joined the party to make the allegation. My accusations have no connection with his political journey: John

Mr Akbar says he has a stellar reputation which was lowered by Ramani: John

John reads Akbar's testimony before Court.

John reads Akbar's statement on Ghazala Wahab's article. Akbar had denied the allegations levelled against him.

Ghazala Wahab was brought as a witness to contest MJ Akbar's claim of stellar reputation. None of the averments by Akbar with respect to his stellar reputation can be sustained: John

John refers to the Firstpost article on 14 women making sexual harrassment allegations against MJ Akbar.

John refers to the articles written by Ghazala Wahab, Shutappa Paul, Kadambari Wade, Harinder Baweja, Shuma Raha.

It is a proved document. They exhibited it: John

MJ Akbar says that he had read the Firstpost article: John

There is a tacit admission without any refutation that this article carried disclosures of 14 women. It is not an evidence of stellar reputation: John

John refers to Akbar's statement on Pallavi Gogoi.

Akbar accepted that Gogoi was 23 years of age and subordinate to him. She made allegations of rape. I don't know if it's right or wrong. He claimed it to be a consensual relationship. It was a direct attack on his reputation: John

John refers to the testimonies of Akbar's witnesses.

Court asks John to continue on the next date of hearing.

Matter to be heard next on September 14.

If I don't conclude on September 14, I will definitely conclude on the date after that: John

Hearing concludes.

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