MJ Akbar’s Reputation Most Important for Him: Lawyer Geeta Luthra
Geeta Luthra went on to claim that allegations against Akbar are unfounded and made without any care or caution.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for ex-Union Minister MJ Akbar on Tuesday, 10 November, commenced her rejoinder arguments in the defamation case brought on by Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani.
In her opening statement, Luthra cited a Supreme Court judgment (Subramaniam Swamy v Union Of India) and said:
“For some people the reputation is more important than life itself. It would be true for someone who has, step by step, from the ‘60s put in hard work in building his reputation.”
She further went on to claim that the allegations against Akbar are unfounded and made without any care or caution.
She also alleged that Ramani provided no evidence in support of her allegations about Akbar, calling her to his hotel room and indulging in inappropriate behaviour with her.
The hearing in the case will continue on Wednesday, 11 November.
'You Put Your Allegations on Social Media’
Geeta Luthra, in her rejoinder, complained that Ramani had not made her allegations in a “provable space” but had gone to social media with them.
“But you make any allegation 20-30-40-50 years later, and you don’t put it in a provable space. You put it on a public place, a social media portal… It is not altruistic.”
Luthra further said that when Ramani had already shared her ordeal, without naming Akbar in the Vogue article, she didn’t have to “name and blame”.
“And that’s where your malice comes from. That is where there’s no good faith,” said Geeta Luthra.
Akbar’s 'Impeccable Image'
Luthra, according to LiveLaw, said that she will first prove that Akbar has an impeccable image.
“Ramani had herself said that Akbar was an erudite person that’s why she wanted to work under him.”
According to LiveLaw, Luthra, along with Prosecution Witness Veenu Sandal’s statements, also read out a list of Akbar’s publications to substantiate her claims of his impeccable reputation.
“Person after person has said Akbar had impeccable reputation both in personal and professional life,” said Geeta Luthra.
Further, in her statements, Luthra attempted to establish how Ramani’s tweets damaged Akbar’s reputation. She also argued that “calling a person a predator is per se defamatory”.
She went on to allege that Ramani’s memory is selective and asked: “Can she malign a person in this manner and then leave him in a limbo, like this?”
Referring to Ramani’s reputation, Luthra said:
“It is not my concern that that the accused also has a reputation. It is wholly immaterial, we are not concerned with it. We are only concerned with MJ Akbar’s reputation, which was impeccable and excellent.”
According to Live Law, the court pointed out that there was an anomaly in a charge filed by Akbar, to which Luthra replied that it was a brief anomaly and could be corrected.
Luthra also alleged that Ramani deleted her Twitter accounts to restrict access to her tweets.
In a 2017 article about sexual predators at workplace, written for the Vogue, Ramani had described her own ordeal of having been sexually harassed by a former boss. A year later, in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, Ramani had alleged on social media that the former boss had, in fact, been Akbar.
Akbar had subsequently filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, asserting that Ramani’s allegations were false and that it had cost him his “stellar reputation”.
In her final arguments, Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, had pointed out that Ramani had pleaded “truth” as her defence, “made in good faith, in public interest, and for public good”, and had gone on to cite exceptions 1 and 9 interlinked with exception 3 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.
She had also said that Rebecca John had said that Priya Ramani was being “targeted selectively” to halt the avalanche of allegations against Akbar, and addressed claims of his “impeccable reputation”.
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