Priya Ramani and MJ Akbar
Priya Ramani and MJ Akbar
Litigation News

MJ Akbar v. Priya Ramani: 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 Geeta Luthra concluded her final submissions on behalf of MJ Akbar in February this year.

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

Live updates of the hearing today feature on this page.

Virtual hearing begins.

I had gone on the issue of reputation on the last hearing: John begins

MJ Akbar had produced witnesses on the aspect of reputation: John

John reads the testimony of witness Veenu Sandal.

Sandal had said that not once had someone raised a finger against MJ Akbar.

"I was shocked and it came as a huge jolt to me..": John reads.

"His image had been dented not only on my eyes but the eyes of others..He told me that there was no truth in the allegations of Ramani..": John continues

John points out that Sandal, in her cross examination, had agreed that she had never met Priya Ramani.

John continues to read Sandal's testimony.

John reads the cross examination.

John reads the testimony of witness Tapan Chaki.

"Friends and family said that the allegations wer unbelievable..": John reads Chaki's statement.

John reads Chaki's cross examination.

John reads the testimony of witness Sunil Gujral.

John reads Gujral's cross examination.

John reads the testimony of witness Joyeeta Basu.

John reads the cross examination of Basu.

These are the witnesses who testified: John says as she urges the Court to see Explanation 4 of Section 499 IPC.

For the offence to be complete, the complaint must plead publication and his lowering of reputation, he must also show that it has been lowered in the eyes of others: John

Most of them said that the damage to reputation was because of Ramani's tweets but were disconnected to the tweets by other women. It is not possible that they did not read the avalanche of allegations against Mr Akbar: John

By quoting only Ramani's tweets, an inference can be drawn that they are lying. The witnesses were devoted to Mr Akbar. One said they shared a guru-shishya relationship: John

The lowering of reputation in the eyes of others must remain. They cannot do this evidence which is not in conformity with the explanation. They briefly felt shocked and later felt okay after talking to him: John

Joyeeta Basu's testimony has to be discarded. She's asking him to take action against Ramani soon after the tweets: John

Sunil Gujral talks about how close he is to Akbar. He doesn't deny being close. These witnesses are close professional and personal associates: John

The witnesses do not comply with Explanation 4 to section 499 IPC: John

Even assuming otherwise, it is still not defamation if the court holds that I have fulfilled the requirements of exceptions 1, 9 read with 3: John

The witnesses are unreliable as they are interested parties. They pleaded ignorance of allegations by other journalists. They selectively deposed against Ramani: John

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

How can you therefore contest my allegations: John

These witnesses testified for fulfilling the legal requirements. I produced a witness, Ghazala Wahab. There was contestation regarding her relevance: John

This witness does not corroborate my incident. She was brought because I am contesting Mr Akbar's claim of having impeccable reputation: John

John reads the testimony of Ghazala Wahab.

John reads Wahab's testimony on how she was sexually assaulted by MJ Akbar when she worked at the Asian Age.

Asian Age had no mechanism for sexual harrassment complaints.. I realised I was on my own : John reads

"Ms Veenu Sandal told me that Mr Akbar was in love with me..", John continues to read.

"I did not write about it from 1998 to 2018 because I wanted to put it behind me": John reads.

John reads Wahab's statement on finally tweeting about her experience in October 2018 in the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.

"I felt that the #MeToo movement gave a platform to women outside the legal framework..": John reads.

John reads her cross examination.

Reputation was claimed by them and it is a fact in issue. When they say that Akbar is a man of impeccable reputation, I have every right to refute it: John

I have every right to refute when their witnesses say that they had no knowledge of allegations against Mr Akbar. I have every right to refute when Sandal says that Wahab's story is false: John

Wahab wrote the article 5 days before the Complaint. Reputation is a fact in issue : John

The notice framed against me says that I lowered the reputation of Mr Akbar. Do I not have the right to contest that?: John

Wahab has her own account, in her own words. How is it hearsay? It is completely wrong to say it is irrelevant. Ghazala Wahab and Priya Ramani were never friends, nor do they claim to be: John

Why would Wahab come to court and give this very painful testimony: John

Where has the complainant provided any explanation as to why Ghazala would support Priya? Ghazala's testimony is without any motive. There was no case against her. It was an act of courage: John

I did not introduce her out of the blue. Each and very allegation made against Mr Akbar was put to him : John

This defence is not jerky. It is being consistent. We are not basing our defence of denial, lack of memory. We have an affirmative defence: John

These are women with impeccable reputation. Look at the books Wahab has written. Her testimony has to be considered and cannot be thrown out: John

John refers to judgments to support her case.

Evidence of general reputation and disposition is relevant in criminal law : John reads a Supreme Court judgment.

A very powerful statement of Ghazala was that I don't want any revenge. She did it to empower other women: John

John continues to read the judgment.

The complainant's plea of stellar reputation is a fact in issue. Thus, any evidence to rebut this claim is admissible under section 9 of Indian Evidence Act: John

Defence witness have disproved the claim that Mr Akbar had stellar reputation: John

John reads a Kerala HC judgement.

Wahab's tweet is dated Oct 6, 2018 . Ramani first tweeted on October 8, 2018. Wahab said 'I wonder when would the floodgates would open against MJ Abar': John

Wahab's conversation with her friend on telling her Akbar story is dated Oct 9, 2018. The Wire article is dated Oct 10, 2018: John

John reads the comments to Wahab's articles. This was before the Complaint was filed. There was a WhatsApp group where women commented. Rachna Grover said that Wahab's incident was true: John

Rachna Grover came in the pre summoning evidence on behalf of MJ Akbar. But she was dropped in the post summoning evidence: John

Wahab wrote a rejoinder after Akbar replied to her story: John

Even the refuttal of Mr Akbar was not put to Wahab in cross examination. There seems to be great anxiety in touching the two incidents of Ms Ramani and Ms Wahab. There were no questions on the hotel incident or Wahab's allegations: John

I put to Mr Akbar each and every allegation made against him. The allegations were from an article that was submitted by him. Reputation is central to the case. Priya spoke her truth on oath: John

It doesn't matter what the character witness say. Ghazala Wahab came with her story to direct refute the reputation claim: John

Reputation is a fact in issue: John

Pallavi Gogoi wrote in Washington Post. I put it to him. I put the statements made by him and his wife .. Mr Akbar said it was consensual. A person claiming impeccable reputation is having a consensual relationship with a junior while being married to someone else: John

I don't need to go into the allegations. There is an admission that something happened. Except the claim is that it was consensual: John

Mr Akbar's admission contradicts the claim of all his witnesses who said that he was a thorough professional: John

Court breaks for lunch.

Hearing to resume at 2.30 pm.

Hearing resumes.

I would like to cite 2-3 judgments: John begins.

How does the law treat admissions?: John reads a Supreme Court judgment.

The court may take judicial notice of the fact that 14 women either tweeted or have account of sexual harassment. It is a document that the complainant proved and he said that he has read it: John

The court may take judicial notice of the infirmities in Mr Akbar's deposition: John

In my cross examination, I reminded him (Akbar) of his previous political history which he did not disclose: John

Complainant wants us to believe that he didn't have full details of the tweets as he was in Africa. In the evidence of Joyeeta Basu, this is falsified: John

Basu said that Mr Akbar thanked her on 10.10.2018 for her tweet in solidarity with him and she told him to take legal action. All this is while he is still in Africa: John

Akbar says that he doesn't remember meeting Priya Ramani. The proceedings were taken up the next day and he became wiser. At various points, he does remember. He remembered her age. The memory lapse was selective: John

With respect to most other women, he says he doesn't remember. There is an incident with respect to a foreign woman. He denied it, denies the content of the email: John.

Priya Ramani was targetted selectively..either everyone's articles and tweets are defamatory or none is. Or are the other allegations accepted? : John

John reads Akbar's statement that he was aware of the existence of other allegations on the date of the filing of complaints.

He chose to go after Priya Ramani. Till date there is no complaint against anyone else: John

Akbar has denied that the complainant was filed to create an overall chilling effect: John

John reads Ramani's statement.

It does beg the question 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: John

Priya Ramani was selectively targetted to halt the avalanche of allegations that came out against him at that time: John

John begins her submissions on standard of proof in a defamation case.

John reads a Supreme Court judgment.

John refers to Section 105 of Indian Evidence Act on burden of proving that case of accused comes within exceptions.

Section 105 says that the burden of proving that the case falls within an exception shall be on the person claiming it: John

The nature and extent of this burden is not to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Law treats the onus as discharged if the accused can prove preponderance of possibility. The onus then shifts to the complainant: John

The complainant has to prove "beyond reasonable doubt". Accused claiming exceptions has to prove "preponderance of probability": John

While I plead truth, public good.. the standard of proof is not proof beyond reasonable doubt. The standard on them is proof beyond reasonable doubt. This is the judgment of Supreme Court in a defamation case: John

The two sets of evidence have to be considered differently: John

I have pleaded an exception and I have consistently tried to prove the exception, they cannot say it is per se defamation: John

Look at the lengths to which I have gone to prove my case.. although law requires me to prove it on preponderance of probability, I have proved my case beyond reasonable doubt : John

John reads another judgment.

John reads an Allahabad High Court judgment.

John reads KM Nanavati judgment.

This was last jury trial case in India: John says as she continues to read the judgement on the applicability of section 105 Evidence Act.

The burden of prosecution to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt does not shift : John continues to read.

Assuming that the court does not fully believe Ramani but if the court feels that ingredient of reputation has been successfully pleaded, it is enough. I need not prove each and every ingredient of the exception. The onus on them never shifts: John

John reads another Supreme Court judgement.

In defamation cases, it is not enough to say it is defamation per se. Once I have pleaded defence, I have discharged the burden imposed on me: John

Evidence has to be which is to be believed by a prudent man: John

The test is of test of a prudent man, test of preponderance of probabilities..this is not the law that I have created. It is the law of the land: John

John reads section 499 IPC.

The first exception itself says there is no generic formula of defamation per se: John

The whole thing shifts once I plead a defence. At the stage of notice itself, I pleaded my defence: John

When I was cross examining, everything that I said was objected to..I will deal it if the court gives me an hour: John

Court proceeds to adjourn the matter.

Court adjourns hearing till September 19.

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