Journalist Priya Ramani Wednesday pleaded not guilty before a Delhi court, after defamation charges were framed against her on a criminal complaint filed by former union minister M J Akbar. “I plead truth as my defence, made in good faith in public interest and for the public good. I will prove my defence during trial. I plead not guilty,” Ramani, who appeared in person before the court, said.
On February 25, while granting bail to the journalist in the matter, the court had refused to grant her exemption from personal appearance.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, however, granted exemption from personal appearance to Ramani, after being told that since the journalist is a Bengaluru resident and a mother, appearing regularly for hearings would be difficult.
The court framed the notice on charges in a complaint lodged by Akbar against Ramani for allegedly defaming him through a series of tweets in October 2018, which accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Akbar subsequently had to resign from his cabinet position in the central government.
The court framed the notice against the journalist under IPC sections 499/500 (defamation) and fixed the matter for further hearing on May 4. Ramani had appeared on February 25 in pursuance to the trial court’s January 29 order, by which she was asked to appear before it and put her defence in the matter.
Although several women levelled allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against the BJP leader, he, after resigning as Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs on October 17 last year, filed a defamation lawsuit against Ramani alone.
To establish that Ramani’s tweets and publication resulted in his reputation being tarnished, Akbar had recorded the statement of six witnesses before the court.
Akbar, a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh, has termed the allegations “false and imaginary”.