M.J. Akbar’s plea accuses Priya Ramani of ‘willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defaming the complainant’.
New Delhi: Union minister and veteran journalist M.J. Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani after she and 13 other former colleagues accused him of sexual harassment and assault.
In his plea, Akbar has said her accusations and a piece she wrote about their first encounter are a “figment of her imagination”.
In a write-up for Vogue last year, Ramani had talked about an editor who had invited her to his Mumbai hotel room for a job interview two decades ago, offered her drinks, asked her to sit beside him on the bed, and sung for her.
She didn’t identify the man in the article, which was written in October 2017, when the global MeToo movement had just begun.
It was only recently, on 8 October, that she identified Akbar as scores of women took to social media for a fresh wave of MeToo allegations against journalists and members of the entertainment industry.
In her tweet, Ramani said she hadn’t named him earlier “because he didn’t do anything”. Her claim got more women to go public with the alleged harassment they had faced at the hands of Akbar.
‘Cases against other accusers to follow’
Akbar filed the criminal defamation case at the Patiala House district court in Delhi a day after he returned to the country from an official trip to Nigeria.
Speaking to ThePrint, a member of his legal team said similar cases will follow against others who had made allegations against Akbar on social media.
His complaint accuses Ramani of “…willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defaming the complainant, on wholly and completely false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous grounds… thereby harming the goodwill and reputation of the complainant, within the political fraternity, media, friends, family, colleagues and in society at large”.
Akbar said Ramani’s write-up and subsequent tweets — among other things, she identified him as “the media’s biggest sexual predator” — had the sole motive of maligning his reputation and political standing in “furtherance of her own vested interests and underlying agenda”.
It then cites Ramani’s “didn’t ‘do’ anything” claim to question the underlying allegations.
Hours after landing in Delhi from an official tour to Africa, Akbar in a statement said that “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 added.
Advocate Sandeep Kapur, a partner with Karanjawala & Co, confirmed that the firm will be representing Akbar in the criminal defamation matter.