“This is a false and malicious case filed to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Akbar," Ramani reportedly said.

MJ Akbar doesnt have an impeccable reputation Priya Ramani tells court
news MeToo Friday, August 23, 2019 - 16:47

Journalist Priya Ramani deposed in a Delhi court on Friday in the defamation case filed against her by former Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar. The matter will next be taken up on September 7. 

In a piece for Vogue India titled ‘To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world’, Priya Ramani wrote about a journalist who harassed her at a hotel but hadn’t named MJ Akbar, a former senior editor who launched several publications. She later named him on Twitter and soon, many women came forward to accuse the former Union Minister of sexual harassment and even alleged rape.

Priya, who deposed in the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, said that the tweet she wrote about her MeToo story did pertain to Akbar and that the tweet was “not malafide, in bad faith, deeply offensive, maligning and spun out of lies,” according to Bar and Bench. 

"Ramani's tweet had adversely affected my reputation," Akbar had earlier told the court. Responding to Akbar’s statement that the allegations affected his standing, Priya reportedly responded that she cannot say if Akbar’s standing was affected. "It is false that MJ Akbar has an impeccable reputation," she reportedly added.

“My tweets did not become the basis of articles in internationally known newspapers and websites. The complainant is deliberately singling out my tweets,” she added, according to reports. 

She briefed the court about the alleged harassment and stated that while her article began with her experience with MJ Akbar, the rest was not about him. 

“Akbar is deliberately singling out my tweets and the article. The articles were in fact based on the collective account of many women, including me, who spoke out about their experiences at the hands of Akbar,” she reportedly said. 

Priya added in court that during the MeToo movement when many women in the media started speaking up, she decided to name him, which she felt was her responsibility as a senior journalist. 

“It is unfortunate that women who had faced sexual harassment at the workplace must now defend themselves in criminal proceedings for speaking the truth,” she reportedly said. 

“This is a false and malicious case filed to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Akbar. It is an attempt to intimidate me by deliberately targeting me. Akbar seeks to divert the attention away from the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him and the public outrage that followed,” Priya further said, according to reports.

Akbar presented seven witnesses in the court — Sunil Gujral, Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Habib Rehman Tapan Chaki, Manjar Ali and Rachna Grover. Of them, Priya said that five of them were motivated witnesses in the false case against her.

More than 20 women have accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. All the women were working as employees under MJ Akbar when he was a journalist. Pertaining to Priya Ramani’s case, Akbar denied all allegations, and said it was “wrong to suggest that the conversation between us was more personal than professional.”

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