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MJ Akbar Sues Priya Ramani for Defamation in #MeToo Row; Journalist Says ‘Truth My Only Defence’

The Minister of State for External Affairs has accused Ramani of 'wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously' defaming him and has sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.


Updated:October 15, 2018, 7:04 PM IST
MJ Akbar Sues Priya Ramani for Defamation in #MeToo Row; Journalist Says ‘Truth My Only Defence’
File photo of MJ Akbar.(PTI)

New Delhi: Union minister MJ Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani for accusing him of sexual harassment, prompting a reply from the journalist who said she was ready to fight the case.

The Minister of State for External Affairs has accused Ramani of "wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and malaciously" defaming him and has sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.

"The complainant (Akbar) also had a long career in journalism, he launched India's first weekly political news magazine...," the complaint said and listed out defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media against him.

“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,” the complaint said.

It termed as "scandalous" the allegations made by Ramani against Akbar 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 and friends, family and colleagues and caused irreparable loss and tremendous distress.

The complaint, filed through advocate Sandeep Kapur, seeks issuance of notice to Ramani under Section 499 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 500 of the IPC provides that an accused may be awarded two years jail term or fine or both in the event of conviction.

Akbar, who returned from an official trip to Nigeria on Sunday, has termed the allegations levelled against him by several women as "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

Akbar virtually rejected calls for his resignation as MoS External Affairs and sought to link the allegations against him to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Reacting to the defamation case filed against her, Ramani said she wished to register her protest against Akbar’s statement, which “pays no heed to the trauma and fear of survivors”.

In its first reaction to the controversy, the BJP said Akbar has given his version and that it is not about whether the party agrees or disagrees with him.

Party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao was asked at a press conference whether the ruling party agrees with Akbar on his statement. “It is not about agreeing or disagreeing. He has presented his version," Rao said.

There have been mounting demands for his removal from the Union council of ministers after multiple women, as part of the #MeToo movement in India, came out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by Akbar when he was a journalist.

"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad," he said in the statement.

"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," the BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh said.

Apart from Ramani, other women who have accused Akbar include Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul. "Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not however name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: 'Never named him because he didn't 'do' anything.' If I didn't do anything, where and what is the story?" Akbar asked.

"Shutapa Paul states, 'The man never laid a hand on me.' Shuma Raha says, 'I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually 'do' anything'. One woman, Anju Bharti, went to the absurd extent of claiming I was partying in a swimming pool. I do not know how to swim," Akbar said.

The minister said both Ramani and Wahab kept working with him even after these alleged incidents, claiming that it clearly established that they had no apprehension and discomfort.

(With PTI inputs)

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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