The hearing in the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani continued today. The parties are submitting their arguments afresh after the case was transferred from Judge Vishal Pahuja to Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra K Pandey.
Today, after the arguments put forth by Ramani's counsel Rebecca John in the previous hearing, senior advocate Geeta Luthra presented her rebuttals on behalf of Akbar.
Luthra emphasised the need to remember that this is a case of defamation, not sexual harassment. In the context of John accusing Akbar of not coming to court with "clean hands" and of "playing a fraud on the court", Luthra expressed concern over the language used by John.
"This is defamation, how can she say fraud?" she asked. "The usage of such language is very wrong. I made a 15-page note of what she [John] had said [which] was factually incorrect."
Luthra continued: "A man's reputation is built on a daily basis and the work they do...Never in my lifetime, his reputation has been questioned...The two outstanding newspapers of our age came from Calcutta. That's where Akbar was educated and took to journalism."
Luthra spoke at length about Akbar being "an honourable and respectable man", listing his achievements as a journalist, author and an MP. Referring to the Vogue article by Ramani, Luthra pointed out that Ramani had used the following words to describe Akbar: "You were one of my professional heroes." How then, Luthra asked, could it be said that Akbar did not have any reputation?
Citing the same article, Luthra said the defense was clutching at straws. On John asking why others who had made similar allegations against Akbar were not named with Ramani in this defamation suit, Luthra said: "It's not a legally tenable argument."
In her article, Ramani had described Akbar as a "predator" and a "pervert". Luthra said: “You can't besmirch a person’s reputation like this. With this case, we should understand why criminal defamation is important. Journalistic freedom brings with it journalistic responsibility.”
She also claimed that the defendants' arguments were "misleading and incorrect statements", and accused "an educated" Ramani of deliberately deleting her Twitter account, which Luthra described as the "primary evidence" in the case.
“The matter is sub judice. We are not playing games with each other. The matter has some solemnity,” Luthra said.
The next hearing is slated for December 24 at 10.30 am.
Here is a sampler of Newslaundry’s coverage of the case:
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