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Published On: Mon, Feb 25th, 2019

#MeToo: ‘Truth is My Defence’ Says Priya Ramani

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MJ AkbarNEW DELHI :  Senior journalist Priya Ramani, who had accused former Union minister MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as a media personality, was granted bail by a Delhi court on Monday in connection with a defamation case filed by him.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal granted bail to Ramani on a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
On behalf of the journalist, senior advocate Rebecca John submitted that since the offense is bailable in nature, Ramani should be granted bail subject to furnishing personal bond and surety bond in the sum of Rs 10,000. The court accepted the application and the bond furnished.

Later, Ramani stated that when charges are framed against, it is then that she “would tell her side of the story” and the truth was her only defense.
In the last hearing, Ramani was summoned as an accused in the criminal defamation complaint filed by former Union minister of state M J Akbar, saying “reputation is not only the salt of life but also the purest treasure and the most precious perfume of life”.
Observing that a “prima facie” offense of defamation has been committed by Ramani against Akbar, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal said: “Accordingly, Ms Priya Ramani is summoned for commission of offense of defamation under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)”.
In a series of tweets in October, when the #MeToo movement swept across the country, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment and misconduct along with several other women. After resigning as Union minister on October 17 last year, Akbar filed a defamation lawsuit against Ramani. To establish that Ramani’s tweets and publication resulted in his reputation being tarnished, Akbar recorded the statement of six witnesses before the court. The six witnesses, who were closely associated with Akbar at a professional and personal level, have deposed that they were “shocked” and “dismayed” after reading the tweets and that Akbar’s reputation has been lowered in their eyes.

A Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh, Akbar has called the allegations false and imaginary. In his statement recorded in the court on October 31 last year, he had said that immediate damage has been caused to him due to the scurrilous, concocted and false allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him.Backing his credentials, witnesses told the court that they had never heard of any complaint against him. Relying on the deposition of the witnesses, ACMM Vishal in his 23-page order said, “Every person has a right to have his reputation preserved inviolate.”
“This right of reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person as part of the right of personal security. A good reputation is an element of personal security, and is protected by the Constitution equally with the right to the enjoyment of life, liberty and property.”

Priya Ramani was the first among a number of women who accused MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as a media personality, forcing him to resign as the junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on October 17 last year. “As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court,” Ms Ramani had tweeted the day he resigned. MJ Akbar quit his job as the junior foreign minister after the #MeToo allegations against him.
The politician filed a defamation case against her, following which Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal summoned her. “Time to tell our side of the story,” she tweeted hours after the summons. MJ Akbar’s legal team, comprising senior advocate Geeta Luthra and lawyer Sandeep Kapur, had told the court that Priya Ramani damaged his reputation by leveling “false, wild and baseless allegations”.

Among those who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment is a United States-based journalist who claims that she was assaulted at a Jaipur hotel over 23 years ago, followed by instances of “sexual, verbal and emotional” defilement. When the former Union Minister insisted that theirs was a consensual affair, she said that a relationship “based on coercion and abuse of power” cannot be couched in such terms.(With Agency Inputs ).

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