MeToo: Priya Ramani Had No Right to Accuse Me of Sexual Harassment as She Had No Proof, Akbar Tells Court
File photo of former Union minister MJ Akbar
Former Union minister M J Akbar told a Delhi court on Thursday that journalist Priya Ramani had no right to accuse him of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place decades ago as she could not prove it. The remedy against a misconduct at workplace was always available and that Ramani's accusation were not in good faith or in public interest, he said.
Akbar made the submission before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar through senior advocate Geeta Luthra during the final hearing in a criminal complaint filed by him against Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct more than 20 years ago when he was a journalist. Ramani had made allegation against Akbar in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018.
Ramani called Akbar media's biggest predator. When you cast an aspersion on someone, you have to show evidence and what investigation you have done. After 25-30 years, you don't go to court. You say there was no law. What is this law which was not present since 1860, Luthra asked.
She said there was no evidence, proof or verification to what Ramani accused. This witness (Ramani) has no truth. There is no evidence, proof or verification. Irresponsible statements like calling someone a predator was made, she said.
She added there were thousands of tweets, reporting in newspapers, magazines. What could she have done more to damage my (Akbar) reputation? It came at no cost to her. The cost is to Akbar. For her, it was something said irresponsibly without good faith, due process. This is not in good faith. I can say it is not in public interest. She has no basis to call him a predator, she said.
The counsel further said that Ramani maligned Akbar and her allegations spread like wildfire. Remedy against misconduct at workplace was always available. You cannot make allegations without due process after 2-3 decades. Because you cannot prove it and it's false, you don't have the right to do it.
Ramani maligned Akbar and her tweets and allegations spread like wildfire, she said. The court will further hear the matter on January 18.
Akbar had filed the criminal defamation complaint against Ramani in October 15, 2018. He resigned as Union minister on October 17, 2018.
Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as 'media's biggest predator' that harmed his reputation. He has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.
Over 20 women came up with accounts of the alleged sexual harassment by Akbar while they were working as journalists under him. He termed the allegations false, fabricated and deeply distressing and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.