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A Delhi Court was hearing final submissions in MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani.
Priya Ramani's allegations of sexual harassment against MJ Akbar stand validated by the combined experience of multiple women who levelled similar accusations, argued Senior Advocate Rebecca John today before a Delhi Court today (MJ Akbar vs Priya Ramani).
John appears for Priya Ramani as her counsel.
Referring to the sexual harassment disclosures by multiple women on social media, John contended that there was no evidence of MJ Akbar's "stellar reputation" which was claimed to be tarnished by Ramani.
"These are women in responsible positions, speaking responsibly..", John argued.
While specifically referring to Ghazala Wahab's testimony, John asserted,
Judge Vishal Pahuja, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue was hearing final submissions in MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani.
Ramani has pleaded truth, good faith and public good as her defence in the defamation trial.
Reading Ramani's testimony wherein she has stated that she had hoped to empower and encourage women to speak up against sexual harassment at the workplace, John today contended that it could be nobody's case that the issue did not pertain to a public question of great importance.
"Speaking out on sexual harassment at the workplace is in the public good. Whether it came 20 years later .. are issues that I would deal with", John remarked as she drew the Court's attention to the #MeToo movement of October 2018.
"On social media, women called out bosses who sexually harassed them. The importance of #MeToo movement cannot be underestimated, whether or not the Court believes Priya Ramani", John argued.
John submitted that there was an absolute vacuum in the sphere of laws to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace when the incident took place 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 our battles", John remarked, while pointing out that the Protection from Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act came only in 2013, which was followed by the insertion of Section 354A in the Indian Penal Code.
In the absence of laws and any statutory mechanism, there was nothing that Ramani could have done in 1993, John submitted.
During the day-long hearing, John also dealt with MJ Akbar's assertion that Ramani's friend, Nilofer was a tutored witness who had fabricated false evidence.
The message sent by Nilofer to Ramani on calling out MJ Akbar on Twitter, within hours of the tweet being published on October 8, 2018, corroborated Ramani's allegations and could not be said to be done preemptively to form her defence in anticipation of a criminal complaint, John submitted.
"Here is a witness who is not shying away. Her tweet and evidence are of outmost important. She corroborates Ramani's truth", John argued.
She contended that Nilofer's testimony and the message must be held to be admissible under Section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act.
It was once again reiterated that only the first four paragraphs of the Vogue article penned by Ramani concerning sexual harassment at the workplace pertained to MJ Akbar.
To support her stance, John referred to Ramani's tweet dated October 8, 2018, which said that she "began" the article with her MJ Akbar story.
It was further pointed out that the article itself spoke of more than one person as it was titled "To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World.."
The matter would be heard next on September 14.
Read the full account of today's hearing below:
Read the full account of Day 1 of Rebecca John's submissions below: