On the Day of Final Hearing, Delhi Court Transfers MJ Akbar-Priya Ramani’s Case To Other Court
The Delhi court that was hearing the defamation case of BJP MP MJ Akbar against Journalist Priya Ramani transferred the case to another court on the day of the final decision. The court cited the reason that it is supposed to hear only those cases that are against MPs and MLAs.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja said on Tuesday, “As per the Supreme Court’s directions, only matters filed against MPs and MLAs can be listed before the Rouse Avenue court.” The Akbar-Ramani case has been filed by an MP but it is not against an MP since Ramani is a journalist.
The case has been in the Delhi High Court for the last two years. In the last hearing held on September 20, 2020, Ramani’s lawyer had issued her final statement. The rebuttal and the court’s final decision was expected on the next hearing. Now the District and Session court will decided on 14th October, on when the case will be heard, or will it be best for the current judge, Justice Pahuja to conclude it in the Delhi High Court itself.
If the case is taken over by the District and Session Court, the final arguments from both the lawyers will have to be heard again.
What was Ramani’s Lawyer’s final argument?
Priya Ramani’s lawyer, Senior advocate Rebecca John told the Delhi Court on September 14, 2020, that over 14 women accused Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in 2018. She further added that Ramani is being “selectively targeted” by Akbar as he has filed the complaint of criminal defamation only against her. She also said that through the selective targeting, Akbar intended to “to halt the avalanche of allegations of sexual misconduct” posed on him during the #MeToo movement.
“Priya Ramani was targeted selectively… Either everyone”s articles and tweets are defamatory or none is. Or are the other allegations accepted?” John had asked.
Later on the last hearing on September 20, 2020, John also talked about the criminality of defamation and said that it is not defamation when someone tells the truth in good faith. “Freedom of speech and expression is critical and intrinsic to democracy. Ramani was a small part of a large movement,” she said demanding acquittal.
In 2017, Journalist Priya Ramani had revealed about facing sexual harassment at work in an article without naming anyone directly. Then in October 2018 when #MeToo movement began in India, Journalist Priya Ramani took to Twitter to accuse former journalist and BJP MP MJ Akbar of assaulting her when he was her boss around 20 years ago. Subsequently, MJ Akbar resigned from his post of MP on October 17, 2018. He also filed a case of criminal defamation against Ramani on October 15, 2018. He claimed that Ramani’s accusations, tweets and articles tarnished his “stellar reputation”.