MJ Akbar, former External Affairs Minister, on Tuesday made his final submission to a Delhi court, which is hearing the case of criminal defamation against senior journalist Priya Ramani, reported Bar and Bench.
Senior Advocate Geetha Luthra presented Akbar’s case before the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Ravindra Kumar Pandey, arguing that Ramani made public accusations that harmed Akbar’s reputation, instead of relying on existing legal remedies.
The hearing was for final submissions from Akbar’s side of the case. Advocate Rebecca John had already made her final submissions for Ramani’s side on December 14 2020. Final submissions are being made afresh in the case, as a new judge has taken over the case.
In 2018, in the heyday of the #MeToo movement, Ramani had accused MJ Akbar, the then External Affairs Minister, of sexual misconduct in 1993. Following that, Akbar resigned from the Union Council of Ministers and filed a criminal case of defamation against Ramani. Akbar has continued to deny Ramani’s accusations, and claimed that he doesn’t remember the incident in question.
Akbar’s legal team has claimed that though Ramani has not filed a complaint against him, it was the “falsity” in and outside the court that led him to file the defamation case.
During the last hearing in which Ramani had made her final submissions, Ghazala Wahab (author of the The Wire article M.J. Akbar, Minister and Former Editor, Sexually Harassed and Molested Me) and testified that “[Ramani] was unable to register a complaint at that time, as the 1997 workplace had no anti-sexual harassment mechanism in place.”
Countering this, Luthra said that even if a workplace sexual harassment act did not exist at the time, legal remedies were in place, such as the Vishakha judgement, the existence of the National Commission for Women (NCW), and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1860.
Claiming that there were “contradictions in cross-examination”, Luthra labelled Ramani’s version story as “a figment of imagination.” Luthra argued that the allegations made by Ramani stand “unprovable after 30 years” as she had failed to produce any “contemporaneous evidence” of her visit to or presence in the hotel back in 1993 in Mumbai.
Luthra also said that it was utterly “irresponsible” to make such allegations against someone without any investigation.
Referring to Ramani’s article in Vogue in 2017, Luthra said “There is (a) denial of the truth by Ramani that the entire article is on Akbar. Ramani herself says the second portion of the article is false. It is without any basis. There is nothing to show that people read the Vogue article as two articles. This shows the reckless manner in which the accused makes this allegation.”