Akbar’s lawyers may rely on part of judgment in appeal
Experts said Akbar’s legal team could focus on the judgment’s comment on the content being defamatory in an appeal
A day after a Delhi court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed by former minister and MP MJ Akbar, some legal experts said that a possible appeal by the latter could revolve around the judgment itself, which admits in one part that the content referred to in the suit is “defamatory in nature”, and that the “defence of the accused regarding” only part of the article referring to Akbar and the rest to “other male bosses is rejected” .
To be sure, the judgment then went on to say that “Akbar was not a man of stellar reputation”, and reasoned that “the right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to life and dignity of women as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution...”. It added that “.. perpetrators of sexual harassment ... can also be a person of reputation...”. Based on this reasoning, laid out in the verdict, judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey acquitted Ramani.
Read more: Priya Ramani vs MJ Akbar case: 5 takeaways from the order
When contacted, Akbar’s counsel said they were intending to file an appeal.
“With the court saying that the contents are defamatory, he (Akbar) stands vindicated. This was what we had intended to show to the court that you cannot make such defamatory comments through the article and social media posts,” senior advocate Geeta Luthra, heading the legal team for Akbar said
Some legal experts were of the opinion that Akbar’s legal team could focus on the judgment’s comment on the content being defamatory in an appeal, and on it dismissing one aspect of Ramani’s defence that only part of the article was about Akbar.
The case concerns Ramani’s tweet in 2018, read in consonance with an article she wrote for Vogue magazine in 2017. In the latter, she wrote about a situation where an editor interviewing her made her feel uncomfortable by conducting the interview in his hotel room.
Read more: Priya Ramani acquitted in MJ Akbar defamation case
In the tweet, which came in the wake of the MeToo movement, she named Akbar as the editor. Several other women spoke about their experiences with him at the same time; one of them Ghazala Wahab even testified in favour of Ramani during the case. Akbar resigned as junior foreign minister and sued Ramani for defamation.
Siddharth Dave, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court said there are established exceptions by which an act may not be defamatory. In this case, he added, the exceptions would be: truth; that the content was published in good faith and for the larger public good. “The judgment is convoluted in its reasoning as the logic given by the court does not explain how the exceptions claimed stood justified. The judge should have confined himself within the walls of defamation,” he added.