A metropolitan magistrate’s court on Tuesday granted exemption from appearance to actor Kangana Ranaut in the defamation proceedings filed by poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, and said that it would issue an arrest warrant against her if she remains absent during the next hearing.
Ranaut’s lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui told the court that the actor was showing “Covid-like symptoms” and has “not been feeling too well”. He submitted a medical certificate from a doctor.
“She has been travelling continuously to promote her film and meeting a lot of people. She is ill probably because of that. She has to undergo a Covid-19 test. I am seeking a short date,” Siddiqui told the court.
Lawyer Jay Bhanushali, representing Akhtar, who was present in court along with wife Shabana Azmi, opposed Ranaut’s plea stating that she had not been present for the past eight hearings after the court issued summons against her.
Akhtar’s lawyer had filed a plea before the court during the previous hearing seeking a warrant against her. The court said it was keeping the plea pending. “If she fails to remain present, I will issue an arrest warrant against her,” the metropolitan judge said.
Bhanushali said that multiple reasons have been given over the past few months, including a shoot in Budapest and promotion of films, for her non-appearance. “It is an orchestrated motive to delay the case and no respect has been shown to the judicial proceeding,” he argued before the court.
He also submitted that Ranaut had sought relief from the sessions court in an appeal against the Andheri court’s order and sought the quashing of proceedings before the Bombay High Court, but her pleas were rejected. He also said that, unlike Ranaut, Akhtar had “diligently” remained present for most of the hearings.
Siddiqui said that among the eight hearings referred to by Bhanushali, “3-4 were dates when the court was not functioning”. He also said that Ranaut was “genuinely suffering” and that the court could go on hearing the case in her absence.
He said that Ranaut would be present for the next hearing unless her Covid-19 test result is positive, in which case he would inform the court with another plea. The court scheduled the next hearing for September 20.
Akhtar had last year filed a complaint alleging that Ranaut made defamatory statements on national and international television, “in what appears to be a clear campaign to malign and tarnish (Akhtar) in the eyes of the general public”. The court had said that a prima facie case was made out and issued notice against her. It had also issued a bailable warrant against her in March.