Journalist Priya Ramani added to her statement and presentation in the criminal defamation case filed by former minister MJ Akbar. Ramani called former minister MJ Akbar a “predator” in the Delhi Court while testifying. She was also cross examined by Akbar’s counsel.

Here is Priya Ramani’s Statement

I spoke the truth when I disclosed my experience of my first job interview in the Vogue magazine and my tweets. It was/is important for women to speak up about sexual harassment at the workplace. Many of us are brought up to believe that silence is a virtue.

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In all my disclosures, I spoke the truth in public interest and the public good. It was my hope that the disclosures in the #MeToo movement would empower women to speak up and to better understand their rights at the workplace.

This case has come at a great personal cost to me. I have nothing to gain from it. I am a well regarded, respected journalist. I live a quiet life with my family in Bangalore. It’s not easy for any women to make such disclosures.

By keeping silent, I could have avoided the subsequent targeting but that would not have been the right thing to do.

Find below the detailed conversation between Akbar’s counsel Geeta Luthra who questioned Priya Ramani.

Q (Geeta). Can you tell us what magazines and newspapers did you read till you finished your studies?
Ans (Priya). I read Times Of India. In those days there were not too many newspapers in Bombay. I remember reading Busy Bee in the afternoon dispatch. I also used to read India Today Magazine. We also had access at St Xavier’s College to newspapers that were not published in Bombay, such as Telegraph.

Q. What articles did you write between January and October in 1994?
A. In Delhi, the paper hadn’t launched yet and we mainly did dry runs and I attended many political press conferences. When I moved to Bombay, I wrote many articles on the Bombay Stock Exchange. I don’t remember the specific headlines of these

Q. How many articles did you write and till when was the stock exchange on strike?
A. I wrote one article every day. I do not remember how long the strike went on.
I worked at Reuters for about three and a half years. I used to do multiple daily stock reports and a weekly stock market trend. But now, I cannot recall the specific headlines. I do not remember the date when I joined Reuters.
I do not remember the exact date of joining Elle magazine or any organization.

Q. Name five prominent articles that you wrote in Elle Magazine.
A. By this time, I was deputy editor and my responsibilities mainly included managing the team and editing articles written by my juniors. I wrote lesser but I do have articles at home which I can produce later.

Q. Can you tell the exact date of joining Cosmopolitan magazine?
A. I was transferred from India Today to Cosmopolitan sometime in September 1999.

Q. Can you tell us five articles that you wrote for Cosmopolitan?
A. I wrote an article titled ‘Edit Note’ in every issue of Cosmopolitan when I was the Editor.

Q. I put to you that it would be a column and not an article.
A. Yes, it was not a news or features article.

Q. When did you finish your course and at the time of finishing, which places did you apply to for jobs apart from The Asian Age?
A. I finished my course in June 1993. I did a fellowship at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies after that. Then I returned to Philadelphia. I returned to Bombay in 1993. In those days there were not many job opportunities. I heard that TOI paid journalists Rs 1000 and made them trainees no matter what their educational qualifications. Someone at the Xavier’s Institute of communications told me that The Asian Age was hiring and so I applied there first.

Q. Would it be correct to say that knowing that your course was finishing in June 1993, you didn’t apply for any job before you completed your course or after you completed your course and returned to India and joined Asian Age?
A. No, I started with The Asian Age.

Q. Would it be correct to say that there were many other well known prominent publication houses for magazines and newspapers in Bombay, Delhi and other cities at that time?
A. I don’t know the exact details.

Q. I put to you that your so-called dream of becoming a journalist was not contingent on being hired by The Asian Age.
A. It was not a so-called dream. Yes, The Asian Age was a good opportunity to realize this dream.

Q. If there had been no vacancy at that time in the Asian Age, would you have stopped?
A. No.

Senior Adv Rebecca John objects to the question as being hypothetical and speculative. Geeta continued.

Q. I put to you that the reason you took up the job at The Asian Age was that no such interview in the circumstances as alleged by you ever happened.
A. It is incorrect.

Q. I put to you that this is the reason why you never applied to any other publication.
A. It is incorrect.

Q. I put to you that your so-called dream of becoming a journalist was not contingent on being hired by The Asian Age.
A. It was not a so-called dream. Yes, The Asian Age was a good opportunity to realize this dream.

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Q. I put to you that more than two decades later you have maliciously and intentionally concocted this story to damage Mr Akbar’s reputation.
A. It is incorrect.

Q. I put to you that you published a piece of false news (her tweets).
A. It is incorrect.

Q. I put to you that you termed it as a “big victory” (for the #MeToo movement).
A. Yes. My tweet was in response to a Firstpost article/tweet.

Q. Do you know that the criminal law of India including the IPC has always had a provision for sexual harassment since its enactment?
A. I am not aware of the IPC provisions.

Q. I put to you that the criminal law in India has always had provisions for redressal of sexual harassment cases.
A. I am not aware.

Q. I put to you that in 1997, the Supreme Court pronounced a judgement with regard to sexual harassment at workplace titled Vishakha vs the State of Rajasthan.
A. I know there are Vishakha guidelines.

Q. Are you aware that in 2012, there was a Bill in Parliament with respect to the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace?
A. I am aware. The anti-sexual harassment law came into effect in 2013.

Q. I put to you that a redressal mechanism for sexual harassment existed prior to 2013 also under the Indian law.
A. I am not aware of other redressal mechanisms prior to Vishakha guidelines. I am aware of the Vishakha Case and the sexual harassment law passed in 2013.

Q. Would it be correct to say that in 2013 many women in India had spoken up about various allegations against men?
A. I remember that after the Nirbhaya gang-rape case in 2012, women did speak about violence against themselves.

Q. Do you know whether there was an allegation against a former Editor in Chief of a prominent magazine (Tehelka case)?
A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that there were other allegations of sexual harassment against other men in the workplace in 2013?
A. I need to know the specifics to answer this question.

Q. Was there a movement of people so-called having ‘found their voice’ and speaking up in 2013.
A. Many women spoke up after the Nirbhaya case. It may have been described as finding their voice in media reports.

Q. Did you write an article titled “Sorry Boss, we found our voice” in 2013?
A. I do not recall but I may have written it.

Priya Ramani is shown the article which was published by Mint.

Ramani: Yes, it is correct that I wrote this article. It is correct that in Nov 2013, when I wrote the article I had not made any allegations against Mr Akbar.

Q. I put to you that Mr Akbar became a member of BJP in 2014.
A. Yes, I am aware.

Q. I put to you that Mr Akbar became a minister in July 2016.
A. It’s a matter of record.

Q. I put to you that you made these allegations against Mr Akbar for the first time only in 2018.
A. Yes, I named him in 2018.

Ramani: It is wrong to suggest that I had made these allegations against Mr Akbar maliciously, deliberately, in bad faith to malign Mr Akbar

Q. I put to you that according to your 2013 article there were plenty of opportunities and platforms to speak out against any allegations of sexual harassment prior to 2018.
A. This is incorrect.
It is wrong to suggest that I did not make any allegations against Mr Akbar prior to 2013 as no such incident ever happened. It is wrong to suggest that I didn’t name Mr Akbar in my Vogue article since nothing happened.

Q. I put it to you that the word “you” in the first paragraph of Vogue Article has been used by you for Mr Akbar.
A. Yes, I have already said so.

It is wrong to suggest that nowhere in my tweet or article have I made any clarification or explanation that the Vogue article made any distinction between allegations against Mr Akbar and others. It is wrong to suggest that I have an artificial distinction for purposes of creating a false defence in this defamation case, Court records on behalf of Ramani. It is wrong to suggest that the article and tweets are referring entirely to Mr MJ Akbar.

Q. I put to you that on its plain reading, it is clear that the article refers only to one person.
A. It is incorrect.

It is wrong to suggest that my tweets and article lowered the reputation of Mr Akbar in the estimation of the general public and right-thinking members of society.

THE CASE

The former-journalist-turned-politician, Akbar, who was the Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) in the first NDA government, filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani in mid-October last year. This was a result of the sexual misconduct allegations that she put against him after several women journalists had already spoken about his inappropriate behaviour on social media during the same time. She tweeted on October 8, 2018, that it was MJ Akbar that she wrote about in her article in Vogue in 2017 while explaining her incident of sexual harassment. She started the article with her alleged case and then moved on to elaborate it with many other such cases.

Akbar felt that her tweets lowered his “reputation in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the public, my friends, colleagues, peers and professional and political fraternity”, thereby “causing irreparable loss” to his reputation and goodwill.

The case has been adjourned till October 24. 

Special mention for Bar and Bench for updates on court proceedings.

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