Person accused of sexual harassment can’t be of high reputation, Priya Ramani tells court about M.J. Akbar


Ms Ramani also accused the former Union Minister of undermining the sexual harassment that women go through at workplace by terming her allegations as “fictitious”

Refereing to former Union minister M.J. Akbar, journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court on Wednesday that a person accused of sexual harassment cannot be of high reputation.

Ms Ramani is facing a criminal defamation complaint filed by Mr Akbar, who has been accused by her of sexual misconduct over 20 years ago when he was a journalist.

Ms Ramani, who had made allegation of sexual misconduct against Mr Akbar in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018, also accused him of undermining the sexual harassment that women go through at workplace by terming her allegations as “fictitious”.

She made the submission before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar through senior advocate Rebecca John during the final hearing of Mr Akbar’s criminal complaint against her for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Ms John said though it was a fact that Ramani did not name Mr Akbar in the Vogue article of 2017, “in her evidence she has explained that it was #MeToo that gave her the courage to name him in her tweet”.

“Merely because the accused (Ramani) had not named in 2017, it does not take away the credibility of the allegations made at the height of the #MeToo,” she said.

Countering Mr Akbar’s allegation that Ms Ramani’s claim of having faced sexual misconduct was “fictitious”,Ms John said, “How is this fictitious? When I recall something that happens me it is a real life story and not fictitious. You are undermining the sexual harassment that women go through at workplace.”

Ms John further referred to Akbar’s reported consensual relationship with a 23-year-old subordinate at workplace.

“This is what harassment looks like. No human being accused of sexual harassment can be a person of high reputation.

“No journalist guilty of contempt of court can be a man of high reputation. Writing books does not define reputation,” she said, pointing out that Mr Akbar was held guilty by Delhi High Court in a contempt of court case.

Ms John further said that ten women had made allegations against Mr Akbar, as admitted by him.

“She (Ramani) is naming them and if this doesn’t show predatory behaviour, nothing does,” she said.

Ms Ramani further denied Mr Akbar’s allegations that she did not make proper enquiry before writing the article, and said, “When I (Ramani) am talking about myself and my own personal experience, whom do in inquire from? I am an eye witness in my own case. I could have only asked Akbar. We were the only two in the case.”

The court will hear the matter further on February 1.

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