New Delhi: Karanjawala & Co, the law firm which is fighting MJ Akbar’s battle against journalist Priya Ramani in an alleged case of sexual harassment, has defended its battery of 97 advocates in the Vakalatnama as the ‘standard practice’ and stated that only six out of the 97 will appear in the case.
Union minister MJ Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case against the journalist who had accused him of sexual harassment. The junior foreign minister, who has rejected the allegations as “false and fabricated”, filed the complaint in a Delhi court on Monday soon after his return from Africa where he was leading an Indian delegation.
More than 10 women journalists have accused Akbar of harassment when he was an editor.
The minister had filed the complaint through the law firm Karanjawala & Co. In the Vakalatnama filed in the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at the Patiala House Court, the law firm has listed 97 lawyers who have been authorised by the firm to appear in the case.
It has led to reports of this being a tactic by Akbar to intimidate the journalist, who had opened the alleged can of worms against the former editor of the Asian Age and the current Union Minister.
“Our firm has 100 lawyers. We usually have all the names printed in one vakalatnama with only the ones who will appear in the case signing it. Our criminal team has six members and only those six will appear in this case. Only they have signed the vakalatnama,” a spokesperson of the firm told News18.
Senior partner Sandeep Kapur, Principal associate Veer Sandhu, Senior associates Niharika Karanjawala, Apoorva Pandey, Mayank Dutta and Associate Gudipati G Kashyap, are the ones who have signed the vakalatnama and are likely to appear in the case, according to the firm.
However, Supreme Court lawyer and BJP Leader Ashwini Upadhyay has called it completely “unethical” on the part of the firm.
“One Vakalatnama has only one lawyer and this is not the standard practice. This is unethical form of intimidation towards the journalist. There can be no convenience because a case is not followed by everyone. Ninety seven lawyers have to be briefed about the case after each development and how many lawyers can be briefed on this?” Upadhyay told News18.
The firm told News18 that if there is a matter which is a real estate dispute then too the same vakalatnama is filed.
“Even if we are going for a matter concerning DLF then too the same vakalatnama will be used. It is not an intimidation tactic,” said the firm.
Prasanna S, a Supreme Court lawyer, told News18 that this was not “an unethical practice or an intimidation tactic” but certainly a “convenience thing.”
In his statement, the minister called the allegations against him as “false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice.”
“Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” MJ Akbar had said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the women who spoke out against MJ Akbar have stated that they stand by their accusations and will fight the legal case.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Priya Ramani said: "The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried."
MJ Akbar has previously held various senior positions in multiple news media organisations, including The Telegraph, Asian Age and India Today.