MJ Akbar’s lawyer presents final arguments in defamation case
Geeta Luthra, the lawyer for former Union minister MJ Akbar, on Saturday concluded her arguments in the criminal defamation suit Akbar has filed against journalist Priya Ramani.
Akbar filed the case under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code in November 2018 after Ramani made an allegation of sexual misconduct against him on Twitter in October 2018 during the Me Too movement against sexual harassment and assault.
The allegation pertained to the time when Akbar purportedly interviewed Ramani for a reporter’s position while he was the editor of Asian Age newspaper in 1994. Akbar has denied the allegation and said the meeting, as described by Ramani, did not take place.
Making her closing arguments in the court of additional chief metropolitan magistrate Vishal Pahuja, Luthra argued that Ramani’s statements against Akbar were “per se defamatory” and said that the journalist intended to harm the reputation of her client.
Citing other cases, Luthra said, “It is sufficient to show that the accused has reason to believe that [what they said] will harm the reputation of the person.”
“I have examined people who said that they held [Akbar] in high regard, and the respect they held for him was lowered in our eyes… In this case, no reasonable person can say that it was not defamatory.”
“There are some people who, when their reputation is hurt, it shatters their whole existence. It destroys them,” she added.
Akbar, who was the minister of state for external affairs at the time the allegation was made, resigned shortly after facing allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from Ramani and other women .
In her defence, Ramani had told the court last September, “Many of us are brought up to believe that silence is a virtue. It is my hope that the disclosures that were part of the Me Too movement would empower women to speak up and to better understand their rights in the workplace.”
Ramani’s lawyer, Rebecca John, will offer her closing arguments on March 17.