MJ Akbar played a fraud on court by hiding other sexual harassment allegations: Rebecca John argues for Priya Ramani before Delhi Court
Priya Ramani (L), Rebecca John (R)

MJ Akbar played a fraud on court by hiding other sexual harassment allegations: Rebecca John argues for Priya Ramani before Delhi Court

John said that at the time of the filing of the complaint in October 2018, as many as 15 women had spoken up against Akbar.

Concluding her submissions on behalf of Priya Ramani in the defamation case, Senior Advocate Rebecca John today told a Delhi Court that MJ Akbar did not come to court "with clean hands" and was "playing a fraud on the court".

"An individual who was a senior editor and a Minister at that time.. Was there no obligation on him to state that there were other allegations of sexual harassment against him? That Priya Ramani was not an isolated incident?", John argued.

Stating that at the time of the filing of the complaint in October 2018, as many as 15 women had spoken up against Akbar, John contended,

"You are trying to gain an unfair advantage over the other side. The failure of Mr Akbar in mentioning the allegations by other women, and pretending that only Ramani's statement defamed him.. Mr Akbar has not come to court with clean hands and has played a fraud on the court."

John added that by singling out Priya Ramani, Akbar concealed material particulars from the court.

"When a person tries to establish defamation on the basis of sexual harassment allegations, was it not incumbent on him to make a fair disclosure about the fact that as many as 15 other women had levelled similar allegations?", she questioned.

John was arguing before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, Rouse Avenue Court Complex, Delhi.

The Court was hearing final arguments afresh after the transfer of Judge Vishal Pahuja.

Summing up her defence today, John reiterated that no offence of defamation under Section 499 IPC was made out as Ramani's disclosure was her truth, made in public good and good faith.

She said that the incident of December 1993, when Ramani went to the Oberoi Hotel for the interview, was corroborated by the testimony and evidence presented by Nilofer, Ramani's friend.

Contending that Ramani's articles and tweets were not malafide and in fact, served the larger public interest, John submitted,

"Truth is painful.. but you seek to serve the larger purpose. It has not been easy to say all this, it has taken a toll on her. But sometimes, it is cowardly if one does not speak the truth."

She added,

".. harassment takes many forms, mental and emotional. She explained why she used to word predator. To explain the difference in power and age, between herself and MJ Akbar.. incident of sexual harassment touches upon a public question. It can never be held that such disclosure is not for public good, public interest."

Answering why the disclosure was made several years after the incident, John reiterated that at the relevant time, neither the Indian Penal Code nor the Asian Age provided for a redressal mechanism.

"Both Ghazala and Ramani have said that they made statements in 2018 because of #MeToo movement (which) gave them a safe platform outside the legal platform", she added.

John further pointed out that she was contesting Akbar's claim of stellar reputation in view of the sexual harassment accusations made by 15 other women and his allegedly consensual relationship with a junior colleague.

"There was no pre-planned conspiracy on part of Ramani or any other woman. Most of these women did not know each other..The women who made allegations are professionals of high standing and reputation. There is nothing to suggest falsehood or ulterior motive.", John said.

I plead that Priya Ramani be acquitted, John ultimately concluded.

The matter would be heard next on December 22 when counsel for MJ Akbar would make rejoinder submissions.

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