19 Sep 2020 1:38 PM GMT
Senior Advocate Rebecca M John today completed her final arguments on behalf of journalist Priya Ramani who is facing a criminal defamation case for sharing her #MeToo story against MJ Akbar. While addressing the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, Ms John submitted that Ramani should be acquitted as her story is her truth, which was made in good faith...
Senior Advocate Rebecca M John today completed her final arguments on behalf of journalist Priya Ramani who is facing a criminal defamation case for sharing her #MeToo story against MJ Akbar.
While addressing the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, Ms John submitted that Ramani should be acquitted as her story is her truth, which was made in good faith to encourage women to speak up against sexual harassment at workplace.
While arguing that Ramani's case qualifies for the statutory exceptions to criminal defamation, Ms John submitted that Ramani has sufficiently proved her defence by producing sterling evidence, which is also corroborated by the evidence of other women such as Nilofar Venkatraman and Ghazala Wahab.
Ms John reiterated that the burden of proof on the defence is only limited to preponderance of probability, and it is the prosecution that needs to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution, she contended, has failed to relieve that burden.
Starting of the last leg of her final arguments by responding to the arguments of the complainant's counsel Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra, and the objections raised during the examination of witnesses, Ms John submitted that the prosecution's argument calling Ramani's article 'per se defamatory' is unsustainable in law.
'From the very beginning Ramani has claimed that she has written the article, it is her truth. She has also made it amply clear that the entire article doesn't pertain to Akbar', she argued.
Ms John further challenged the questions raised by the prosecution on the veracity of Ramani's story, whereby her 'delay' in sharing the same was questioned.
Responding to these questions, Ms John argued that Ramani could not share her story before as there was a culture of silence, women were not encouraged to speak up about instances of sexual harassment. Moreover, Ms John submitted, when Ramani incident took place, there was no law in place to address sexual harassment at workplace.
'Vishakha Guidelines took a long time to get implemented by both the judiciary and the media', she argued.
Finally, by citing a quote from Judge of the US Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who passed away this morning, Ms John argued that the sexual harassment at workplace is a historic and structural wrong which was attempted to be corrected by the #MeToo Movement.
She argued that Ramani's story against Akbar was an act of free speech, which was made in good faith and in the public interest - to encourage women to come out and share their stories of discrimination. Therefore, she should be acquitted in the present case.