MJ Akbar case: Refrain from making 'personal remarks' on lawyers in public, Court tells media

The directions came after MJ Akbar's counsel claimed that one of the journalists, working at a news portal had allegedly made 'personal remarks' on one of the lawyers on her team.

Published: 11th December 2019 08:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2019 08:01 PM   |  A+A-

Journalist Priya Ramani and former Union Minister MJ Akbar

Journalist Priya Ramani and former Union Minister MJ Akbar (Photo | EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court Wednesday directed the media to refrain from making any "personal remarks" in public on any lawyer in a case of criminal defamation filed by former Union Minister M J Akbar against a female scribe on her sexual harassment allegations against him.

The directions came after Akbar's counsel claimed that one of the journalists, working at a news portal had allegedly made "personal remarks" on one of the lawyers on her team.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja was hearing the criminal defamation complaint filed against journalist Priya Ramani, who had made sexual harassment allegations against Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo campaign in India.

The court completed recording the statement of the prosecution and the defence witnesses and has put up the matter for final arguments on January 16, 2020.

At the outset, Akbar's counsel Geeta Luthra and Ramani's counsel Rebecca John had a discussion with the judge in his chamber.

He then gave the orders and asked the journalist to give an undertaking to the court at the end of they day's hearing and to remove parts of the article in which the alleged "personal" comments were made.

"I am restraining myself from commenting on media reporting. It is your right. But you should refrain from commenting personally either on the lawyers or their team in the case."

"It was brought to my notice that there were some personal remarks made against a lawyer in a news portal. It should be refrained from. Without pinpointing anyone, it has been conveyed that no personal remarks on lawyers should be made in public in future," the judge said.

Though Akbar's counsel emphasised on passing an order for removal of the article, the judge said directions have been passed and the counsels were free to take any legal recourse against the journalist.

Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17 last year, filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani after his name cropped up on social media as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.

The journalist had alleged in the article that some members from Akbar's team of counsel were laughing while one of the witnesses in the case was narrating her ordeal of alleged sexual harassment by the former Union minister.

When the court was passing the orders, the journalist, who had written the article, posed a question to the judge to explain what the meaning of "personal remarks" was.

"If you or the counsels could kindly define what falls under personal remarks, we would keep it in mind for future reference," the reporter asked the court.

At the end of the hearing, a heated confrontation took place outside the courtroom between the team of lawyers of both sides and reporters for about 10 minutes.

While one of the complainant's lawyers claimed the allegations made against them in the article were false, Ramani's counsel said there were indeed disturbances created by them.

The other journalists present there came in support of the scribe of the news portal and interrupted the conversation of the lawyers, saying no one should laugh while a woman is narrating her alleged sexual harassment experience.

The scribe, who had written the article, stood her ground and said the facts were correct, including the alleged "personal remarks".

When one of the lawyers said there should be some ethics in a journalistic article, she said, "How can you talk about ethics when you browbeat your way in court to remove such article?" She was cut short by other journalists who pulled her away from the situation.

The situation calmed down after that as the lawyers dispersed too.

Gazala Wahab, one of the witnesses appearing in support of scribe Ramani, had on Tuesday alleged that Akbar sexually harassed her in 1997 while she was working in a newspaper being edited by him.

Akbar has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women, who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.

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