#MeToo: Akbar files defamation case against Ramani

#MeToo: Akbar files defamation case against Ramani

MJ Akbar has accused Ramani of "wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defaming him. (Cartoon by @sajithkumar /Outlook)

Acting belligerent in the face of charges of sexual harassment by over a dozen women, Union Minister M J Akbar on Monday filed a defamation case in a Delhi court seeking action against journalist Priya Ramani for making “false, motivated and malicious” allegations to harm his reputation.

He sought prosecution of Ramani, who was the first to make allegations against him as part of the #MeToo movement, for causing “irreparable loss, tremendous distress and great humiliation to him and his reputation”. Ramani wrote an open letter about her experience with Akbar that was published by Vogue India in 2017. Ramani did not name him at the time but she tweeted earlier this month, admitting that it was Akbar who harassed her.

The complaint seeks action by issuance of summons against her for an offence under Section 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment of defamation) of the IPC for “willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defaming” him on completely “false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous grounds and thereby harming his goodwill and reputation within the political fraternity, media, friends, family, colleagues and society at large”.

The punishment for the offence, if found guilty, carries the maximum prison term of two years, or fine or both.


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Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, said the accused while referring to 20-year-old incidents, admitted he has never done anything to her, she (Priya Ramani) has intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated and salacious imputations to harm his reputation.

Priya Ramani. (Image: Twitter/@priyaramani)

"The conduct of the accused person, of not taking any action before any authority, qua the alleged incident, also clearly belies the sanctity of the (article written by her) and the allegations," he said, terming the charges as a "figment of her imagination."

In his complaint filed by advocate Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co, he contended that a false narrative was being circulated in a motivated manner and for the “fulfilment of an agenda”.

He has given a list of six witnesses namely, Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Syed Habibur Rehman, Tapan Chaki, Sunil Gujral and Manzar Ali, whom he wanted to examine during the proceedings.

Referring to Ramani's tweets and news reports, he said, “It is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously fabricated allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spread using the media.” 

“The very tone and tenor are ex-facie defamatory and have not only damaged the goodwill and reputation of the complainant in his social circles and on the political stage, established after years of toil and hard work,” he stated.

A Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, 67-year-old Akbar has been a veteran journalist. He returned on Sunday from an overseas tour. He has maintained a defiant stance against demands for his resignation.

Ready to fight defamation complaint: Ramani

Responding to Akbar's defamation suit, Priya Ramani on Monday asserted that she was ready to fight the complaint filed in court. She also expressed disappointment over Akbar's statement, saying it paid no heed to the "trauma and fear of the survivors". Ramani said that Akbar was seeking to "silence" the survivors through "intimidation and harassment".

She added that those who had spoken up against Akbar had done so at great risk to their personal and professional lives.

"At this moment, it is disingenuous to ask why they have spoken now, as we are well aware of the stigma and shame that sexual crimes inflict upon victims. Rather than cast aspersions on the intent and motives of these women, we must reflect on how to improve the workplace for future generations of men and women," the journalist said.​

#MeToo: The 'Akbar' Nama

The #MeToo storm has spared none, and among the biggest names is Mobashar Jawed Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs.

In 2014, Akbar joined the BJP and was appointed its spokesperson. (DH Photo)

A celebrity-journalist, Akbar is an alumnus of the Presidency College, Kolkata. Akbar launched India's first weekly political magazine Sunday in 1976 and two English dailies, The Telegraph (1989) and The Asian Age (1994).

He also founded a weekly newspaper, The Sunday Guardian. Akbar has written several non-fiction books, including a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, 'The Making of India', and a book on Kashmir, 'Kashmir, Behind the Vale'.

Soon, Akbar turned his attention to full-time politics. His first tryst was with the Congress as its spokesperson in 1989. He went on to become an MP from Kishanganj in Bihar.

In 2014, when the country was under the "Modi wave", Akbar turned his attention to the BJP and was appointed its spokesperson. He was later made a Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand and also appointed the junior minister to Sushma Swaraj in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Just when things seemed smooth, the #MeToo movement hit India and several women came out and accused Akbar of sexual harassment, the first among them being journalist Priya Ramani. 

The minister, however, has rejected all allegations as false and baseless and even questioned the motive as it has come at a time when the country is gearing up for the general elections.

How the whole issue is going to pan out only time can tell.