#MeToo trial: MJ Akbar accuses Priya Ramani of defamation

New Delhi: Former Union Minister M J Akbar told a Delhi court on Friday that journalist Priya Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as ‘media’s biggest predator’ in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018 that harmed his reputation.

M J Akbar made the allegations before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja through his lawyer during the final hearing of a private criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Priya Ramani. Akbar resigned as Union minister on October 17, 2018.

Ramani in 2018 accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago when he was a journalist.

Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Akbar, said that the allegations were intentional and malafide.

“When you call someone media’s biggest predator, it is per se defamatory. Calling a person with such adjectives is on the face of it defamatory. In the eyes of the people, Akbar’s reputation was harmed… The per se effect was lowering of my (Akbar) reputation in the eyes of the right thinking members of the society,” she told the court.

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She said there was no due process in the allegations. “It has a cascading effect. Embarrassing questions were asked. I (Akbar) am a person of greatest integrity… There was no due process in the allegations. You cannot just make allegation and let that person suffer,” she added.

Luthra said that if there was any grievance, it had to be raised then and there before the appropriate authority.

“We need to realise the effect has what we say or what we do. It’s not like she went to any authority or raised any grievance. Opportunity was there, rights were there but to attack so person behind their back on social media…knowing that his whole life will be adversely affected? It’s not right,” she said.

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

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Akbar had earlier told the court that the allegations made in an article in the ‘Vogue’ and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it as the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary and that an “immediate damage” was caused to him due to the “false” allegations by Priya Ramani.

Ramani had earlier told the court that her “disclosure” of alleged sexual harassment by Akbar has come at “a great personal cost” and she had “nothing to gain” from it.

She had said her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at workplace.

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

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

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