New Delhi: The Patiala House Court will on Thursday hear the private criminal defamation case filed by M J Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused the former of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago. The complaint will be heard by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.

Akbar, who resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday, had filed the defamation case against Ramani on Monday, accusing the latter of “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defaming him and sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.

Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur of law firm Karanjawala & Co forwarded the brief resignation letter of Akbar, who was associated with several media houses in the past.

“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. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” Akbar said in his letter.

Kapur said since the matter is subjudice, the law will take its own course. “Since we have already filed the defamation case, we will pursue it in the court,” he said.

Expressing her readiness to fight the defamation allegations, Ramani had said, “Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he (Akbar) seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment.”

Akbar’s plea had listed alleged defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media and also referred to his “long and illustrious” career as a journalist while terming the allegations of Ramani as a “figment of her imagination”.

“Whilst it is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously serious allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spreading in media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the complainant (Akbar) is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfilment of an agenda,” it alleged.

It had termed as “scandalous” the allegations made by Ramani and said “very tone and tenor” are “ex-facie defamatory” and they have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation in his social circle but also affected Akbar’s reputation in “the community, friends, family and colleagues” and caused “irreparable loss” and “tremendous distress”.

It had claimed that the woman journalist, while putting forward the allegations relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, “intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious imputations to harm the reputation of the complainant”.

“The conduct of the accused person, of not taking any action before any authority, qua the alleged incident against the complainant also clearly belies the sanctity of the article and allegations made by the accused person, which evidently goes on to prove that the said defamatory articles are only a figment of her imagination,” it said.

Section 500 of the IPC provides for the sentence for the offence of defamation and an accused may be awarded two-year jail term or fine or both in the event of conviction.

Akbar’s name had cropped up in the social media campaign #Metoo against alleged sexual harassment when he was in Nigeria.

Hours after returning home, Akbar had termed the allegations levelled against him by several women as “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

The women who accused Akbar of sexual harassment, included Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul.