Delhi HC issues notice to journalist Priya Ramani on MJ Akbar’s appeal

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to journalist Priya Ramani on the appeal of former union minister MJ Akbar challenging a trial court order which had dismissed the criminal defamation case filed by him against the journalist.

Justice Mukta Gupta sought the response of Journalist Priya Ramani and deferred the matter for January 13, 2022. Senior Advocates Rajiv Nayar and Geeta Luthra, briefed by a team from Karanjawala & Co represented the MJ Akbar in the case.

The appellant submitted that the impugned judgement suffers from grave infirmities, which is apparent from the fact that, while dealing with the present complaint, the trial court completely departs from the facts in issue and makes general observations, without addressing the averments made by the Complainant, moreover, while doing so, the trial court has not ascribed any reason for disregarding the evidence led by the Complainant, as well as the testimony of the Complainant’s witnesses.

“The impugned judgement suffers from non-application of mind, which has led to crucial errors. On one hand, while the impugned judgement itself states that the article written by the accused, which was subsequently linked to the Complainant, was defamatory, and simultaneously rejects the defence of the accused that only part of the article applied to the complainant and the remainder did not, it ultimately acquits the accused. It would follow that the accused, once her argument is rejected and her publication is held to be defamatory, would be convicted. However, the trial court, even after holding as above, has acquitted the accused, without providing adequate reasons for such acquittal,” the plea reads.

MJ Akbar has challenged the trial court order passed on February 17, this year which had acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her over the allegations of sexual harassment.

Trial Court’s Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey while passing the judgement had said Indian women are capable, the way should be paved for them to excel, and they only require freedom and equality.

The ‘glass ceiling’ will not prevent Indian women as a roadblock for their advancement in society if equal opportunity and social protection are given to them, the court said.

Ramani during cross-examination submits that she had no “malafide” and “extraneous” motives for making the allegations of sexual harassment against former union minister M J Akbar.

“It is wrong to suggest that my conduct as a journalist has been unethical as I had neither identified my sources nor attributed credits” she had said. Akbar, the former Minister of State for External Affairs, had filed a defamation case against the journalist Priya Ramani for accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Ramani was the first woman to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign. The allegations levelled against him forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018.