Ramani was the first in a long list of female journalists to accuse MJ Akbar, a journalist-turned-politician, of sexual harassment.(PTI file photo)
Ramani was the first in a long list of female journalists to accuse MJ Akbar, a journalist-turned-politician, of sexual harassment.(PTI file photo)

MJ Akbar moves Delhi High Court against acquittal of Priya Ramani

A single judge bench of justice Mukta Gupta will hear Akbar’s petition that has challenged the February 17 decision of a city court, clearing Ramani of defamation charges for her allegations of sexual harassment against him.
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2021 03:59 AM IST

The Delhi high court will hear on Thursday an appeal by former Union minister MJ Akbar against the dismissal of his criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani.

A single judge bench of justice Mukta Gupta will hear Akbar’s petition that has challenged the February 17 decision of a city court, clearing Ramani of defamation charges for her allegations of sexual harassment against him.

The appeal, filed by Karanjawala & Co, has referred to portions of the trial court’s judgment which admitted in one part that the content referred to by Akbar was “defamatory in nature”, and that the “defence of the accused regarding” only part of the article referring to Akbar and the rest to “other male bosses is rejected” .

Akbar has sought to highlight that once the trial court held that the content was defamatory in nature, there was a duty cast upon the trial judge to explain what exactly Ramani opted as her defence to this charge, and how her defence was accepted.

It has further pointed out that the trial court dismissed Ramani’s defence that only part of the article was about Akbar and rest were about other male bosses since the article did not mark any distinction but failed to explain why she was not held culpable.

Further, Akbar questioned the trial court’s verdict for accepting Ramani’s defence when she called an incorrect tweet by her about resignation by Akbar as an “honest mistake”. The appeal said the trial court did not analyse the evidence in this regard nor did it assess the impact of the wrong post on his reputation.

On February 17, the trial court judgment had held that “Akbar was not a man of stellar reputation”, and reasoned that “the right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to life and dignity of women as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution...”.

It added that “.. perpetrators of sexual harassment ... can also be a person of reputation...”. Based on this reasoning, laid out in the verdict, judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey acquitted Ramani.

The case concerns Ramani’s tweet in 2018, read in consonance with an article she wrote for Vogue magazine in 2017. In the article, she wrote about a situation where an editor interviewing her made her feel uncomfortable by conducting the interview in his hotel room.

In the tweet, which came in the wake of the MeToo movement, she named Akbar as the editor. Several other women spoke about their experiences with him at the same time; one of them Ghazala Wahab even testified in favour of Ramani during the case.

Akbar resigned as junior foreign minister after the allegations surfaced, and sued Ramani for defamation.

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