On Thursday, former Union minister MJ Akbar told a Delhi court that there should be another criminal case against journalist Priya Ramani for deleting her Twitter account, which had “primary evidence” in the ongoing #MeToo case.
MJ Akbar made the submission before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar through senior advocate Geeta Luthra during the final hearing in a criminal complaint filed by him against Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago, when he was a journalist.
Ramani had made allegation of sexual misconduct against Akbar through her Twitter handle in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018. During the ongoing arguments, Luthra told the court that Ramani deleted her Twitter account along with all its tweets deliberately to subserve the cause of justice. As reported by NDTV, she said,
This (is a) strange argument that this Twitter account (Ramani’s), the court didn’t tell me (Ramani) to save so I didn’t. How can one take a defense like this?
Adding further Luthra said,
She knows a criminal complaint is pending against her. These are all tweets. They were all primary evidence. Can she destroy evidence? Another criminal case can be made out.
The court asked whether the account was deleted before the cross-examination, to which Ms Luthra replied in affirmative. Luthra told court,
I would have wanted to cross examine her. This whole thing is destruction of evidence. Suppose the court wanted to see it. Fact is that everything has been deliberately destroyed to subserve the cause of justice.
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At this, the judge asked if MJ Akbar had filed any complaint for destruction of evidence. To this Luthra replied,
We haven’t but we want the court to take cognizance. I’ve brought it to the notice of the court.
She said the deletion spoke volumes about Ramani’s conduct. Akbar’s lawyer quoted,
I would have put many twitter comments to her but couldn’t. It is incorrect to say that Twitter account is not evidence. It is relevant. It is the account from which allegations were made against me (Akbar).
She even added that tampering of evidence was serious.
Luthra further termed Ramani’s story of alleged sexual misconduct as “fiction” and said there was no compulsion on her to join Asian Age, the paper Akbar was the editor of, but she did. She added,
There is no denial that there were other publication houses. There was no compulsion on her to join Asian Age but she did. She found Asian Age a good opportunity,
I bring all this which shows that the incident is something that she made up. It something which is not in the natural sequence of things, This story is a work of fiction.
She further said that if Ms Ramani had grievance, there was a mechanism in place since 1860 to address such issues. Adding further Luthra asserted,
These lies have left me defending my reputation in the last few years. It is unpardonable. I wonder at what kind of cost has it come to you. You have damaged a person’s 50 years of reputation.
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She says in 2017 it was one anonymous article. I say a fictitious article. Had it been a truth, it would have been done in 2017 itself. It now smells of malice. Malice is not necessary to be proved in fact. It has to be seen in effect.
Incident she doesn’t prove, date she doesn’t prove, nothing she proves and burden is on her.
Luthra said there was no basis of calling MJ Akbar what she did. She continued that Ramani’s allegations were an act to intentionally malign and that there was not a whisper of good faith and public interest. The lawyer added,
She said there was no overt physical attack. Here also she is self contradictory. She said it was sarcasm then takes alternate defense. Sarcasm is also defamation. Defense is not legally consistent.
The court will further hear the matter on January 23.
MJ Akbar had filed the criminal defamation complaint against Ramani on October 15, 2018. He subsequently resigned as Union minister on October 17, 2018.
MJ Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as ”media’s biggest predator” that harmed his reputation.
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He has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.
Over 20 women came up with accounts of the alleged sexual harassment by Akbar while they were working as journalists under him. He termed the allegations “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them
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