Former union minister MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation complaint filed against journalist Priya Ramani – the first woman journalist to speak out against him on sexual harassment charges – will come up for hearing in a Delhi court Thursday. Akbar, earlier this week, sued Ramani, stating that her alleged “defamatory articles” on him were a “figment of imagination” and “only” intended to “malign” his reputation.
Ramani was the first to name Akbar in a Twitter post on October 8, and 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 accounts of sexual harassment allegations against him surfaced. Over twenty women journalists have also gone on record to ask the court to “consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of” Akbar and of others “who bore witness to this harassment.” In his statement, MJ Akbar had named four other women who had accused him but filed the criminal defamation complaint only against Ramani.
Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur , the criminal defamation case will come up for hearing on Thursday before additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal. Kapur said since the matter is subjudice and the law will take its own course. “Since we have already filed the defamation case, we will pursue it in the court,” he added.
The editor-turned -politician stepped down as the Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday evening, saying he will challenge the accusations against him. “Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity,” his statement said.
Calling his resignation a ‘vindication,’ Ramani said, she is ready for the legal battle. “As women, we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #metoo,” she tweeted. Earlier, on Monday, Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John told The Indian Express that Akbar’s resignation is unlikely to have any impact on the defamation case — it is to come up in court Thursday — as it is up for “cognizance” and “nothing will happen tomorrow”. But John said now that Akbar has resigned, she does not know “how interested he will be in fast-forwarding the case”. “Truth is my only defence,” she added.