A Delhi court Thursday took cognisance of the criminal defamation complaint filed by former minister MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist to publicly accuse him of sexual misconduct. The court said that it has taken cognisance of the offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
The court will examine the complaint and record the statements of witnesses during the next hearing on October 31.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, representing Akbar, referred to Ramani’s tweets in her arguments before additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal. Luthra alleged that they have caused irreparable damage to the reputation of the former minister. Akbar has resigned due to these allegations and they show the damage caused to his reputation, his lawyer argued.
Luthra referred to the Akbar’s reputation as a journalist and asked the court to take cognisance of his complaint, saying the allegations have caused irreparable loss to his reputation built over 40 years. Akbar wasn’t present in court. He will have to appear in person to record pre-summoning evidence.
Akbar had filed the case against Ramani on Monday, seeking her prosecution under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC for defamation.
The editor-turned-politician stepped down as a junior foreign minister on Wednesday following a flurry of allegations made against him by at least 15 women, who accused him of sexual misconduct during his stint as the editor of The Asian Age. Calling his resignation a ‘vindication,’ Ramani had said she was ready for the legal battle.
Ramani, the first to name him in a Twitter post on October 8, had revealed that an article she had written last year about an editor inviting her to his hotel room for a job interview and asking her to sit on the bed with him, was Akbar. Following this, multiple allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against the former editor.
Akbar has denied the charges, terming them “a figment of imagination” and dismissed the #metoo movement as a “viral fever” in a statement.
Twenty women journalists have urged the court to also consider their testimonies, and to be called as witnesses.
Akbar is the first minister in the Modi cabinet to resign over past allegations of sexual harasssment, and possibly the first ever. In a statement annoucing his resignation, the former journalist said he deemed it “appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, in a personal capacity.”