A Delhi court has sent back the criminal defamation case filed by former Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani to a special MP/MLA court that has been hearing the matter for two years.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja had said on October 13: “There has been directions from the Supreme Court… This case has to be placed before the District and Sessions Judge for further directions. This court will deal with cases against MP/MLAs.”
District and Sessions Judge Sujata Kohli passed the order on whether the case could continue before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja. On November 2, the next date of hearing, Akbar’s counsel, senior advocate Geeta Luthra, will make her rebuttal to Ramani’s final arguments.
Hearing in the case began in October 2018 under ACMM Samar Vishal, who presided over the proceedings until October 25, 2019, when examination-in-chief of defence witnesses were underway. He was later transferred, and ACMM Pahuja began hearing the matter from November 21, 2019, when Ramani’s cross-examination had come to an end.
He heard the final arguments of both sides.
After two years of hearing, the case was in its last stages when ACMM Pahuja—of the special MP/MLA court at Rouse Avenue District Court—said that he can no longer hear the matter. He said this was not a case against an MP or MLA — it was a case filed by an MP — and must be transferred.
This, he said, would be in line with the direction of the Supreme Court, and a February 2018 administrative order of the High Court
On October 14, DSJ Kohli, hearing arguments of the two sides, cautioned that consequences of the trial continuing without jurisdiction can be “very dangerous” because the entire proceedings can be construed vitiated and the trial de novo (anew).
Ramani had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against Akbar, who sued her. He resigned as a Union minister in October 2018.