Priya Ramani says MJ Akbar didn’t approach court ‘with clean hands’, as final arguments in #MeToo case wrap up

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Ramani’s advocate also submitted that Akbar ignored the allegations made by 20 other women and pretended that only Ramani’s statement defamed him

File images of MJ Akbar and Priya Ramani. PTI

New Delhi: Journalist Priya Ramani on Friday alleged before a Delhi court that former Union minister MJ Akbar did not approach the court with clean hands in his criminal defamation complaint against her.

Senior advocate Rebecca John, representing Ramani, made the submission as she concluded the final argument on her behalf in the complaint filed by Akbar against her for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct 20 years back.

She said Ramani’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar, made in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018, were her truth and were made in public good.

“An individual who was a senior editor and a minister at that time, was there no obligation on him to state that there were other allegations against him, that Priya Ramani was not an isolated incident. It seems that apart from Ramani, nobody else had made any allegations against Akbar. By then Ghazala Wahab had written about her experience. At least 15 women had spoken up on Twitter,” she told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar.

Akbar has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.

Over 20 women came up with accounts of the alleged sexual harassment by Akbar him while they were working as journalists under him.

He termed the allegations false, fabricated and deeply distressing and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

John said, “The failure of Akbar in mentioning the allegations by other women, and pretending that only Ramani’s statement defamed him… (shows) Akbar has not come to the court with clean hands and played a fraud on the court.”

She said Ramani was not the first to tweet against Akbar.

“Several women had tweeted. Ghazala Wahab tweeted two days before. Shunali Khullar Shroff and Prerna Singh Bhindra tweeted before her.
There was no pre planned conspiracy on part of Ramani or any other woman. Most of these women did not know each other,” she said.

She said the women who made allegations were professionals of high standing and reputation and that there was nothing to suggest falsehood or ulterior motive.

“Some women had worse experience than Priya Ramani. Why was Ramani singled out in this manner? This creates a doubt on the credibility of the Complainant. To say that Ramani and other women have lied for no apparent reason is beyond logic,” she added.

She added that these women did not know each other.

“While a lot of onus is put on me (Ramani) for being fair. Shouldn’t the complainant bear the same responsibility? He should have said that other women have made allegations which are also false. Not having mentioned such serious allegations and singling out Priya Ramani, Akbar is guilty of concealing material particulars… A litigant must approach the court with clean hands,” she said.

She also said that even though it was not a case of complainant concealing previous conviction, Akbar should have disclosed that he was held guilty of contempt by Delhi High Court.

John pleaded that Ramani be acquitted as she concluded the final argument of accused’s behalf. The court will further hear the matter on 22 December.

Ramani had earlier said her allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar were her truth and were made in public good. Ramani disputed Akbar’s claims of having a stellar reputation that had been tarnished by her allegation.

Akbar had filed the criminal defamation complaint against Ramani in 15 October, 2018. He resigned as Union minister on 17 October, 2018.

Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as ‘media’s biggest predator’ that harmed his reputation.

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