A Delhi court on Friday decided to hear on January 22 the criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani who had accused him of sexual harassment during his stint as the editor of The Asian Age in the 90s, news agency ANI reported. Akbar had resigned as a Union minister on October 17 last year after Ramani, through an article published in lifestyle magazine Vogue India, had levelled the charges without naming him. On October 8, the journalist first named the editor-turned politician in a Twitter post.
Taking to Twitter, Ramani 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. Refuting the charges, Akbar had termed them as “a figment of imagination” and had also dismissed the #metoo movement as a “viral fever” in a statement.
The former Union minister had sued Ramani, seeking her prosecution under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for defamation. On October 19, the Patiala House court took cognizance of Akbar’s complaint under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of the IPC. Akbar was not present at the hearing then and was represented by his counsel senior advocate Geeta Luthra and advocate Sandeep Kapur. During the brief hearing, Luthra submitted that Akbar’s “reputation has been tarnished” by the tweets by “Ramani which have been read by family, friends and associates.” “He has received number of calls from different spheres…enquiring of the allegations, causing irreparable loss to reputation he has built in the last 40 years,” Luthra told the court.
Later while appearing before the court, Akbar had termed the allegations levelled by Ramani as “concocted and false” and something which has caused “immediate damage” to his reputation. “The opening sentence of her tweet explained one anomaly. When the article was first published in Vogue, it didn’t include my name. When asked about it, she said it was because ‘I had done nothing’. Clearly, she was advised by Vogue that including my name would invite liability….There was an immediate damage because of the scurrilous nature of the concocted and false allegations. I was attacked about the alleged and fabricated non-events. I chose to seek justice in my personal capacity without the appurtenance of the office and that’s why I resigned,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.