M.J. Akbar files criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani
The lawsuit names journalist Priya Ramani as the sole accused and says she 'intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated and salacious' allegations to harm M.J. Akbar's reputation
New Delhi: Journalist-turned-politician M.J. Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist to publicly accuse him of harassment, a day after issuing a statement denying charges of sexual assault andharassment levelled against him.
On Sunday, Akbar rejected the sexual harassment claims and said that they were “false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice". He said he could not respond to the charges previously as he was on an official tour.
The accusations first surfaced in a Twitter post by Ramani on 8 October as Akbar began his trip to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Ramani named Akbar as the editor she had alluded to in an article in the Vogue magazine on sexual harassment at the workplace in October 2017. Without identifying Akbar, she detailed alleged unwarranted advances made by him 20 years ago when she was 23 years of age.
Later through the week, several other women journalists made public their stories of alleged misconduct by Akbar amid a barrage of accusations in India’s #MeToo movement, which singed prominent names in India’s entertainment and media business since it erupted at least a couple of weeks ago.
The issue is likely to create political ripples. On Monday, members of the Indian Youth Congress, the youth wing of the Congress, demonstrated near Akbar’s official residence in New Delhi, demanding his resignation. Senior Congress leaders have been demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment on the issue and that strict action be taken against Akbar.
On Sunday, Akbar questioned why the women who had accused him did not report the incidents previously. “This is the reason why no one went to the authorities for so long, because I had done nothing," he said.
“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge," Akbar said, referring to the elections to be held in five states—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana—starting 12 November. India is also to go to national polls in 2019.
The last high profile defamation case seen was Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s defamation case (civil and criminal) against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders alleging financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association during his tenure as president of the association. The issue resulted in a political slugfest during court hearings and ended abruptly with Kejriwal tendering an apology to Jaitley.
Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.
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