MJ Akbar’s Defamation Case Against Priya Ramani In Court Today, Many Tweet In Her Support

Posted: May 4, 2019

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Ex-Union Minister MJ Akbar’s defamation suit naming only Priya Ramani, one of the several women who have accused him of sexual harassment during his tenure at The Asian Age came up for hearing today.

It seems like a strange and ridiculous situation of sorts, that the accused in a sexual harassment row, called out by so many women in India’s #MeToo, has the audacity to charge one of those aggrieved women with defamation.

Priya Ramani has pleaded not guilty and asked for a trial. In a two hours long charged up courtroom drama, former Union minister MJ Akbar recorded his statement and was cross examined by Ramani’s lawyer senior advocate Rebecca John.

About 20 women journalists are ready to testify in court against MJ Akbar. Almost all of them worked at several levels as journalists with ‘The Asian Age’ where MJ Akbar was editor for a decade and a half. All these women have put out a joint statement in support of their ex-colleague Ramani who was the first to call out the then minister publicly on Twitter.

It has been alleged by Akbar that “the tweet used a language that was deeply offensive, malign, mala fide, in bad faith and a web of fabrication spun out lies.”

In the defamation case filed by him against her she has been accused of “intentionally putting forward fabricated allegations” to harm Akbar’s reputation, by him via his team of lawyers. Akbar, appearing before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, said the allegations made by Ramani affected his public reputation as well as standing within family and friends.

Ms. John cross-examined Akbar on details regarding Ramani joining The Asian Age, among others. However, Akbar responded to most of the questions as “I do not remember”, and in his statement went on a long elaboration of his journalistic career and to list the names of books he has authored and other achievements.

In response to this, quite a few of the twitterati spoke up on Ms Ramani’s behalf.

Barkha Dutt 

Sona Mohapatra

Kiran Manral

MJ Akbar had to resign as Union minister on October 17 2018 after a huge public uproar following multiple sexual harassment charges against him when the #MeToo movement took the Indian media by a storm. After this he had filed this private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani. She has accused him of alleged sexual misconduct around two decades ago, but Akbar has denied the accusations.

He still has a “verified” account on Twitter having about 131k followers and goes by the name Chowkidar M J Akbar @mjakbar.

The next hearing on the matter would be on May 20 when the cross examination will be resumed.

Author’s note: This is a developing story in focus of all women rights groups in the country and all political circles too, and will be updated.

Image source: YouTube

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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