New Delhi: Delhi’s Patiala House Court will today hear the private criminal defamation case filed by M J Akbar against Priya Ramani, the first of the several women journalists to accuse the former of sexual misconduct. The complaint will be heard by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra of law firm Karanjawala & Co will be appearing for Akbar, who resigned in wake of the sexual harassment charges against him by as many as 20 women journalists.
In their written petition, they asked the court hearing the defamation case to consider their testimony about the “culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that he engendered and presided over” at the newspaper
“Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment,” the journalists said in the joint statement undersigned by them.
Meenal Baghel who worked for Asian Age (1993 to 1996), Manisha Pande (1993-1998), Tushita Patel (1993-2000), Kanika Gahlaut (1995-1998), Suparna Sharma (1993-1996), Ramola Talwar Badam (1994-1995), Hoihnu Hauzel (1999-2000), Aisha Khan (1995-1998) and Kushalrani Gulab (1993-1997) have signed the statement.
Kaniza Gazari (Asian Age 1995-1997), Malavika Banerjee (1995-1998), A T Jayanthi (1995-1996), Hamida Parkar (1996-1999), Jonali Buragohain, Meenakshi Kumar (1996-2000), Sujata Dutta Sachdeva (1999-2000), Reshmi Chakraborty (1996-98), Kiran Manral (1993-96) and Sanjari Chatterjee are the other journalists to sign the statement.
One journalist from Deccan Chronicle, Christina Francis (2005-2011), also signed the statement.
On Tuesday, Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur 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.
Akbar had filed the defamation case against Priya Ramani on Monday, accusing the latter of “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defaming him and sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.
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.