In the latest hearing on MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani, the BJP leader’s lawyer Geeta Luthra emphasised that all of Ramani’s defence had been “contradictory” and “ill-founded”.
Picking up from where she left off in the, Luthra stated that the by Ramani – which levelled allegations against Akbar – and her trying to “play to social media” was all done in “bad faith”.
“Ramani [in her cross-examination] said that I was intentionally misreading the Vogue article. You are creating an artificial fiction that doesn’t exist,” Luthra said.
Referring to testimonies by Ramani's witnesses – Niloufer Venkataraman and Ghazala Wahab – Lutha said none of them are "admissible", saying Venkarataman was an "interested witness" while Wahab's testimony was not connected to the case.
“Wahab has given a story which is not connected with the case. There’s no relevance," she said. "Every defence they have taken has no justification.”
Questioning Ramani’s counsel Rebecca John’s defence that the message sent by Venkatraman to Ramani 25 years later is res gestae, Luthra said, “You two are friends who talk to each other every day. Are you talking of something material of 1993? How is it that res gestae didn’t happen in 1994 or 1995?”
Res gestae is a spontaneous declaration made by a person immediately after an event and is an exception to the hearsay rule of evidence that says hearsay evidence is not admissible.
Luthra continued, “You can't do violence to its definition. If it is hearsay, it remains hearsay. There is no spontaneity or immediacy in her statement.”
Reading Venkataraman’s testimony, Luthra said that both Ramani and Venkataraman did not remember the exact dates of the incident because they could not prove it, and that they had created social defences as friends who had each other's backs.
Luthra said that upon asking Ramani whether she had followed journalistic norms while publishing her Vogue article, Ramani had responded that there is no statutory requirement to do so.
“How clever are they trying to be in their defence?" Luthra asked the court. "I know it’s not a legal requirement but as per the ethics issued by the Press Council of India, you have to conduct verification.”
Elaborating on Ramani’s “creditworthiness” Luthra said, “She says the tweet was an honest mistake. How honest is it when you don’t issue a corrigendum? Honestly, you didn’t know about it? Two or three wrongs do not make a right.”
The next hearing is scheduled for January 27 where both parties will sum up their arguments before the Delhi court.
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