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MJ Akbar Vs Priya Ramani- "No Human Being Who Has Been Accused Of Sexual Harassment Can Be A Person Of High Reputation": Rebecca John Tells Court

Nupur Thapliyal
27 Jan 2021 2:31 PM GMT
MJ Akbar Vs Priya Ramani- No Human Being Who Has Been Accused Of Sexual Harassment Can Be A Person Of High Reputation: Rebecca John Tells Court
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The Courtroom battle in the criminal defamation case filed by complainant, Former Union Minister Mr. M.J. Akbar against journalist Ms. Priya Ramani continued today before a Delhi Court judge, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Ravindra Kumar Pandey. Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra concluded her rebuttal arguments against the accused, Ms. Priya Ramani. This was followed by a counter...

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The Courtroom battle in the criminal defamation case filed by complainant, Former Union Minister Mr. M.J. Akbar against journalist Ms. Priya Ramani continued today before a Delhi Court judge, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Ravindra Kumar Pandey.

Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra concluded her rebuttal arguments against the accused, Ms. Priya Ramani. This was followed by a counter argument made by Ms. Rebecca John appearing for Priya Ramani in the matter. The case is presently on the final stages and will conclude once Ms. John concludes her final arguments.

REBUTTAL ARGUMENTS BY ADV. GEETA LUTHRA

The main thrust of Ms. Luthra's arguments rested on three contentions. First, that the accused Priya Ramani had failed to discharge the onus of proof in proving the serious allegations made against Mr. MJ Akbar; Second, that the incidents which are mentioned by the accused especially the meeting in a Mumbai Hotel do not fall within the category of res gestae and Third, the ninth exception under sec. 499 of IPC ( imputations made in good faith) cannot be said to have met in this case.

While concluding her final rebuttal arguments, Ms. Luthra relied on plethora of judgments to substantiate her case on the three above-mentioned points.

On the first contention regarding the burden of proof on the accused, Ms. Luthra relied on the case of Sewakram Sobhani vs R.K. Karanjia (1981) wherein the Supreme Court observed that "It is for the accused to plead Exception in defense and discharge the burden to prove good faith which implies the exercise of due care and caution and to show that the attack on the character was for the public good."

Furthermore, on another contention of relying on exception ninth of sec. 499 of IPC, heavy reliance was made on the judgment of Sukra Mahto v. Basdeo Mahto (1971) wherein it was held that "The ingredients of the Ninth Exception are first that the imputation must be in good faith, secondly the imputation must be for protection of the person making it or of any other person or for the public good."

According to Ms. Luthra, the statements made by the accused, Ms. Priya Ramani were per se defamatory and did not fall within the ninth exception.

"There was no public good in this case. No place for making averments. Even now you have not made any complaint. Even now you haven't shown due care and caution. Even now you haven't proved your case." She submitted.

Moving forward, she argued that the allegations made against Mr. Akbar were in fact based on "blind truth" and without exercising due care and caution.

In submitting so, she relied on the judgment of K Sundaram v. Unknown (2000) wherein the court ruled that before a person proposes to make imputation on another, the author must first make an enquiry into the imputation which he proposes to make. It is not enough that he does just a make-believe show for an enquiry.

"Even if we look at her imputations with a magnifying glass, there is no enquiry. Not a single thing or word is after an inquiry." She submitted.

Ms. Luthra concluded her rebuttal arguments by submitting that "My reputation has been harmed. I seek justice. I have no other way to get redressal and I have irreparably been harmed in my reputation, in my name which I have built in about 50 years of hard work and efforts."

ARGUMENTS BY ADV. REBECCA JOHN

Adv. Rebecca John appearing on behalf of the accused, Ms. Priya Ramani began her rebuttal arguments with the permission of the judge. According to Ms. John, merely because Priya Ramani did not name Mr. Akbar in the 2017 article and later named him in another article written in 2018, does not take away the credibility of the allegations made against him by Ms. Ramani.

Ms. John while passionately arguing on behalf of Ms. Ramani remarked "How many times will I have to prove my allegations?"

Ms. John went ahead to address the allegations of plagiarism made against Ms. Ramani by Adv. Geeta Luthra stating that she had copied the contents of various articles.

"I ask myself a question, if Priya Ramani wanted, she could have said the whole article is against Mr. Akbar. But here is a witness who respects the truth and truthfully told the court that her experience with Akbar only refers to first and fourth paras of the article." She argued.

Furthermore, she then submitted that the phrases "Watch me shower" "Can I give you a bath?" "Are you unmarried?" etc. were in fact portions taken from articles as a representation of what Harvey Weinsteins did to other women. The purpose was to show the gross misconduct done by Harvey Weinsteins.

"She used these phrases as "representative samples" of what men like Harvey Weinsteins do to women. This is not plagiarism. Lets not get carried away. These are representative samples to highlight the amount of harassment faced by women by their bosses. And to say this as plagiarism is absurd. " She submitted.

Lastly, Ms. John touched upon the allegation made by the complainant, Mr. Akbar of harming his impeccable reputation which was built in long years.


She also submitted that:

"No human being who has been accused of sexual harassment can be a person of high reputation, no matter by one woman or by many, numbers do no matter. No journalist who has been accused of harassing a female journalist who is much younger than him, can be a person of high reputation. No journalist guilty of contempt of court can be of high reputation." She submitted.

The matter will now be heard on 1st February 2021.

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