Akbar Defamation Suit: ‘Spoke Truth for Public Good,’ Says Ramani

MJ Akbar filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani after she raised allegations of sexual harassment against him.

3 min read

Senior journalist Priya Ramani on Friday, 23 August, recorded her first statement in the defamation case against her by former Union Minister MJ Akbar after she accused him of sexual harassment, stating that she “spoke the truth in public interest.”

The Delhi court will next hear the case on 7 September.

‘I defend the truth spoken in the public interest and for the public good. It is only now that sexual harassment at workplace is regarded as a serious offense.” 
Priya Ramani

She called the defamation case “false and malicious to instil a chilling effect” on women who are speaking about their experiences of sexual harassment.

“Through his testimony, he feigned ignorance about my story and my truth. It’s unfortunate that women who have experienced sexual harassment at workplace, must now defend themselves in criminal proceedings for speaking the truth.’

‘No Deliberate Attempt to Harm Reputation’

Adding that she spoke the truth, Ramani asserted that there was no deliberate attempt to harm Akbar’s reputation.

“My tweets did not become the basis of articles in internationally known newspapers and websites. The complainant is deliberately singling out my tweets. The articles were in fact based on collective accounts of many women who spoke up about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar,” she said.

‘I Was 23, Didn’t Know I Could Set the Terms’: Ramani

Narrating her encounter with Akbar, Ramani said that she was just 23 years old when her first interview with Akbar was scheduled.

“I was 23, when the complainant, the editor of the soon-to-be-launched Asian Age newspaper called me to his hotel for a job interview. When I got there, I had expected the interview to be in the lobby or the coffee shop. But he insisted I come up to his room. I was young, it was my first job interview, I did not know how to refuse. I did not know that I could set the terms of my interview. I reached his room, It was an intimate space, essentially his bedroom and I was deeply uncomfortable and felt unsafe at Mr Akbar’s repeated, inappropriate personal questions. His offer of an alcohol beverage, his loud singing of songs and his invitation to sit close to him,” she said.

Ramani elaborated that she called her friend Nirupam Venkatraman to confide in and years later, in 2017, wrote an article in Vogue emboldened by the ‘Me Too’ movement in the United States.


Ramani’s Version of Evening at Oberoi Hotel Important to Structure of Case: Rebecca John

Speaking to The Quint, Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John said that the day’s court proceedings were important because the 313 hearing is for the statement of the accused. The purpose of 313 is to meet the requirement of the principle of natural justice. While the statement is not given on oath, the responses given by the accused at this hearing have great bearing on her defence.

John also told The Quint that they had moved an application saying that Ramani exercises her right to appear as a defence witness in her own favour, as well as an application to summon a few more witesses. “Because she’s pleaded truth as her defence, her version of what happened that evening at the Oberoi Hotel in 1993 will become very important for the structure of the case,” John said.

Earlier during the day, John had told The Quint:

“Priya will be speaking for the first time in court today, so good things are expected. She will be presenting her 313 statement in court today.” 
Rebecca John

Soon after Ramani’s allegations against Akbar in October last year, around 20 other women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.

In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. On 20 May, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her.

(This story will be updated as and when the hearing starts.)

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