Court takes cognizance of MJ Akbar’s complaint, to hear case on Oct 31
A Delhi court on Thursday took cognizance of a criminal defamation complaint filed by former minister of state (MoS) M J Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani and fixed October 31 for the examination of the complainant and his witnesses.
At least 20 women journalists have accused MJ Akbar, a former journalist, of sexual misconduct. On 8 October, journalist Priya Ramani was the first to name Akbar on Twitter, referring to a year-old article she wrote where she hadn’t named the person she was writing about by name. Her act, which came in the backdrop of India’s own #MeToo movement sparked a deluge, with many other journalists going public with their allegations against the once-celebrated editor. Earlier this week, 20 women journalists released a signed statement asking that the court hear their personal testimonies against Akbar.
“When Ms. Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr. Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age,” their statement read.
Akbar has served as editor of various newspapers and periodicals, including India Today, The Telegraph, and Deccan Chronicle.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Samar Vishal directed Akbar to testify on October 31. Besides him, six other witnesses including Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Syed Habibur Rehman, Tapan Chaki, Sunil Gujral and Manzar Ali have been directed to record their statements.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra appearing for the Akbar told the court that the allegations have caused “irreparable loss” to the reputation he has built in the last 40 years. Akbar resigned from his post as minister of state in the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday.
Luthra said that Ramani’s October 8 tweet, which linked to an article she wrote about Akbar without naming him in Vogue magazine in 2017, was defamatory.