[Live Updates]: MJ Akbar defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 7
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[Live Updates]: MJ Akbar defamation case against Priya Ramani – Day 7

Bar & Bench

The hearing in the defamation case brought by Former Union Minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani in connection with sexual harassment allegations made by her is currently underway at the  Court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

Ramani had pleaded not guilty in the case initiated by MJ Akbar back in October 2018.

MJ Akbar approached the Patiala House Court under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, terming the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him as “false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous”.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John is representing Priya Ramani. Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra and Advocate Sandeep Kapur (Senior Partner, Karanjawala & Co) are appearing for MJ Akbar.

Read an account of the first round of cross-examination of MJ Akbar on May 4 here, the second round on May 20 here. and the third round on July 6 here.

Read an account of the first round of examination of witnesses produced on behalf of Akbar on July 15 here, the second round of examination on July 17 here and the third round of examination on August 2 here.

The Court is recording Priya Ramani’s statement today.

Live updates of today’s hearing follow. 

  • Court of ACMM Samar Vishal assembles to hear MJ Akbar’s defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani. Court to record Ramani’s statement today.
  • My article, my tweets are a matter of record, Priya Ramani begins. Statement being recorded in question-answer form. It is correct that my tweets pertained to Mr. Akbar, Ramani adds.
  • I spoke the truth. My tweet was not malafide, in bad faith, deeply offensive, maligning and spun out of lies, Ramani.
  • I cannot say if it affected his (Akbar’s) standing before family and friends. My allegations are true. His complaint is false and baseless, Priya Ramani.
  • I began the article with my experience with Akbar. The subsequent portion was not about MJ Akbar. It refered to the experiences of other females with their bosses. My tweets did not become the basis of articles in internationally known newspapers and websites, Ramani.
  • Akbar is deliberately singleling out my tweets and article. The articles were in fact based on the collective account of many women, including me, who spoke out about their experiences at the hands of Akbar, Ramani.
  • It is false that my tweets affected Akbar’s reputation. I spoke the truth and there was no deliberate attempt to harm Akbar’s reputation, Ramani.
  • Sunil Gujral, Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Habib Rehman and Tapan Chaki are all close personal or professional confidants of Mr Akbar. They were all motivated witnesses in this false case against me, Ramani.
  • My allegations were not against Akbar’s reputation as a writer or an author. My allegations related to being sexually harrassed and his conduct as an editor of a daily newspaper. My words were not false or offensive, Ramani.
  • Akbar’s complaint is false and the allegations made by me against him are the truth, Priya Ramani.
  • I do not know the details of Veenu Sandal’s career. I cannot say if and when she read my tweets or what effect they had on her, Ramani.
  • Sandal’s statement that she was deeply distressed to think that someone whom she had placed on a pedestal could do what I had alleged is her personal opinion and has no bearing on my case, Ramani.
  • It is false to state that Akbar’s reputation was damaged. I don’t know what interactions Akbar had with Sandal but my allegations are factual and the truth, Ramani.
  • I do not know the details of Tapan Chaki’s career or his opinion about MJ Akbar. All the editor editors I have worked with in my 25 years of being a journalist have writing skills, administrative skills, are exacting and demanding when it comes to copy, schedule.., Ramani.
  • There is nothing special about MJ Akbar, Ramani.
  • I do know when MJ Akbar saw and read my tweets or what react they had on him, Ramani.
  • It is false that MJ Akbar has an impeccable reputation, Priya Ramani.
  • I do not know the details of Sunil Gujral’s acquaintance with Akbar. It is false that Akbar is a perfect gentleman holding good reputation in society, Ramani.
  • I do not know which colleagues and friends Mr Gujral spoke to to form his opinion about MJ Akbar. But many women including myself who have worked with Akbar have had a a different experience, Ramani.
  • Mr Gujral does not know me and cannot comment on my experience with MJ Akbar. All editors are hard working men and women.. there is nothing special about Akbar, Ramani.
  • I do not know if and when Mr Gujral read my tweets, Ramani.
  • It is false that I damaged MJ Akbar’s reputation. I don’t know the details of Joyeeta Basu’s professional career and details of her acquaintance with MJ Akbar, Ramani.
  • Joyeeta Basu’s high regard of Mr Akbar is her personal opinion. It is false to say that Akbar was a complete professional, that he was held in high esteem in office or in the eyes of the world, Ramani.
  • There was nothing scandalous about my tweet. Ms Basu is a false witness and her tweet, supporting the complaint, the day after I tweeted shows that Akbar’s reputation was not destroyed or irreparably harmed in her eyes, Ramani.
  • It is false of her to say that MJ Akbar’s reputation was permanently destroyed. My tweets were not malicious as she says. I spoke the truth, Ramani.
  • I do not know about Manzar Ali’s printer details, Ramani.
  • Question: Why is this case against you? Ramani: This is a false and malicious case filed to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harrassment at the hands of Mr Akbar. It is an attempt to intimidate me by deliberately targetting me, Akbar seeks to divert the attention away from the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him and the public outrage that followed, Ramani.
  • I will lead evidence in my defence, Ramani.
  • My defence is the truth, spoken in the public interest and for the public good. It’s only now that sexual harrassment at the workplace is regarded as a serious offence, Ramani.
  • I would like to share my story in brief. I was 23 when MJ Akbar, the editor of a soon to be launched Asian Age newspaper called me to his hotel for a job interview. When I got there, I had expected the interview to be in the lobby or the coffee shop, Ramani.
  • But Akbar insisted that I come up to his room. I was young, it was my first job interview, I didn’t know how to refuse. I didn’t know that I could set the terms of my interview, Raman.
  • When I reached his room, it was an intimate space, essentially his bedroom.. I was deeply uncomfortable, felt unsafe at Mr Akbar’s repeated, inappropriate personal questions, his offer of an alcoholic beverage, his loud singing of songs, his invitation to sit close to him, Ramani.
  • Later that night, I called my friend Niofer and told her what had happened. In Oct 2017, the movement in America emboldened countless women and share their experiences of sexual harrassment at workplace. In this context, I wrote a piece for Vogue magazine, Ramani.
  • The piece was addressed to and titled ‘To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World’ where I spoke about many women’s experiences with many male bosses, Ramani.
  • One year later, when came to India and many women in media started speaking up, I felt, as a senior journalist, my responsibility to remove the clock the annonymity. I decided to name him, Ramani.
  • I spoke the truth in public interest and in the context of the movement. I finally had the courage and the platform to name MJ Akbar publically, Ramani.
  • MJ Akbar has filed a false case against me. He has deliberately targetted me to divert attention away from serious complaints against him. Through his testimony, Akbar feigned ignorance about my story and my truth, Ramani.
  • It is unfortunate that women who had faced sexual harrassment at workplace must now defend themselves in criminal proceedings for speaking the truth, Priya Ramani concludes.
  • Matter adjourned till September 7.
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