Delhi court takes cognizance of MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani

New Delhi: The Patiala House Court on Thursday took cognizance of former minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar’s criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani.

Delhi court takes cognizance of MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani

On 31st October when the case will be heard next, Akbar will have to personally appear in court for pre-summoning evidence. He will record his testimony before the court so that it may summon Ramani as accused in the case.

“I have gone through complaint and documents. The court takes cognizance of the case. Let the matter be fixed for examination of complainant and pre summoning evidence on 31st October at 12 noon”, additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal said.

Advocate Geeta Luthra, representing Akbar, told the court that Priya Raman’s tweets had been widely circulated among the public and media persons and were ‘clearly defamatory’.

“His reputation has been lowered before journalists, friends and others. People read the tweets and it affects his reputation,” Luthra submitted.

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations under the #MeToo movement against M.J. Akbar, Akbar tendered his resignation on Wednesday and said he would challenge the accusations against him in a personal capacity.

“I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation,” Akbar said.

He moved the Patiala house court on 15 October in a criminal defamation case against Mint columnist Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment, and sought relief under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The suit was filed by senior partner Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co.

The plea contended that irreparable damage had been done to his reputation. “The scandalous allegations levelled by the accused, by the very tone and tenor are ex-facie defamatory and have not only damaged the goodwill and reputation of the complainant in his social circles and on the political stage but affected his personal reputation in the community, friends, family.”

The complaint listed instances of alleged defamatory statements made by Ramani being circulated through print and electronic media, as well as Twitter.

Ramani, in a statement shared on her Twitter account on Monday, said she was ready to fight allegations of defamation against her.

More than 12 women, apart from Priya Ramani have, over the past few days, recounted instances of alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar.

In a joint statement, 20 women journalists who worked with Asian Age, the publication of which Akbar was the Editor for 15 years, have pledged to testify against him in court.

On Sunday, Akbar rejected sexual harassment claims and said they were “false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice”. He said he could not respond to the charges previously as he was on an official tour.

The accusations first surfaced in a Twitter post by Ramani on 8th October as Akbar began his trip to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Ramani named Akbar as the editor she had alluded to in an article in the Vogue magazine on sexual harassment at the workplace in October 2017. Without identifying Akbar, she detailed alleged unwarranted advances made by him 20 years ago when she was 23 years of age.

Later through the week, several other women journalists made public their stories of alleged misconduct by Akbar amid a barrage of accusations in India’s #MeToo movement, which singed prominent names in India’s entertainment and media business since it erupted at least a couple of weeks ago.

On Sunday, Akbar questioned why the women who had accused him did not report the incidents previously. “This is the reason why no one went to the authorities for so long, because I had done nothing,” he said.

“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge,” Akbar said, referring to the elections to be held in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana—starting 12th November.

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