Priya Ramani and Rebecca John
Priya Ramani and Rebecca John
Litigation News

MJ Akbar’s witnesses in defamation case against Priya Ramani unreliable, have no personal knowledge about her truth: Senior Adv Rebecca John

A Delhi Court was hearing final submissions in MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani for levelling sexual harassment allegations against him.

Aditi Singh

Senior Advocate Rebecca John today argued before a Delhi Court that MJ Akbar’s witnesses in the criminal defamation case launched by him against Priya Ramani, over allegations of sexual harassment against him, are "unreliable."

They are his close professional and personal associates who pleaded ignorance with respect to the allegations levelled by other women journalists, she asserted.

Further John submitted that these witnesses, namely, Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Sunil Gujral and Tapan Chaki, could, in no way, contest Ramani’s allegations against MJ Akbar.

"They had no personal knowledge about her truth. So what are they testifying against? None of them have met me (Ramani). They don't know about my incident or have worked with me."
John argued.

John added that the testimony of Joyeeta Basu must, in particular, be discarded as she has disclosed that after the allegations surfaced, she had asked Akbar to take legal action against Ramani.

After reading their testimonies, Senior Advocate John pointed out that their evidence was not in conformity with the requirement of defamation law, as all them claimed to have been "briefly aghast" by Ramani's allegations, but later convinced by Akbar that the allegations were false.

Judge Vishal Pahuja, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Rouse Avenue was hearing final submissions in MJ Akbar's criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani.

During the course of today's submissions, Senior Advocate John urged Court to take judicial notice of the infirmities in Akbar's deposition.

John pointed out that while Akbar claimed that he did not have full details of the allegedly defamatory tweets as he was in Africa in October 2018, his witness, Joyeeta Basu, deposed that on October 10, 2018, i.e before coming back to India, Akbar thanked her for showing solidarity with him on Twitter.

Further arguing that Akbar's complaint, as well as his "memory lapse" during the trial, was selective, John reiterated,

"Either everyone's articles and tweets are defamatory or none are. Or are the other allegations accepted?.., Why Priya Ramani? Why not other women? While the court examines the merits, the court must see that I was part of a collective (who called him out). I wasn't even the first person. Priya Ramani was selectively targetted to halt the avalanche of allegations that came out against him at that time."
Senior Advocate Rebecca John

Senior Advocate John also concluded her submissions with regards to her claim that there was no evidence of MJ Akbar's "stellar reputation".

She read in detail the testimony of journalist, Ghazala Wahab and Akbar's public statement on having a "consensual relationship" with Pallavi Gogoi.

"A person claiming impeccable reputation is having a consensual relationship with a junior while being married to someone else. Mr Akbar's admission (with regards his relationship with Gogoi) contradicts the claim of all his witnesses who said that he was a thorough professional."
John argued.

Relying on several case laws and Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, Senior Advocate John also contended that while the prosecution had to prove its case "beyond reasonable doubt", she only had to satisfy the threshold of "preponderance of probabilities."

Senior Advocate John will continue her submissions on September 19 at 2 pm.

Read the full account of today's hearing :

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news