A Delhi court on Thursday admitted a criminal defamation suit filed by former Minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani, the first in a long list of female journalists to have accused him of sexual harassment.
After taking cognisance of the defamation suit, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at the Patiala House court listed the matter for October 31 when the statements of the plaintiff and his witnesses would be recorded. Akbar, through his counsel, told the court that Ramani's defamatory statements had damaged his image, lowering his esteem in the eyes of the public.
Earlier in the day, the Editors Guild of India stated that they hoped MJ Akbar would "display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants." The Guild further stated that in case MJ Akbar did not withdraw his complaint or filed a complaint against other women, then they would support the women in any way they can through legal advice or assistance. The Guild would also appeal to lawyers to represent the women pro-bono.
The BJP leader is facing a long string of sexual harassment accusations from women journalists who worked with him at several publications that he edited at various stages of his journalistic career.
Akbar has denied the charges as "false, wild and baseless".
Akbar, in his plaint, said that it was apparent that the false narrative against him was being circulated in a motivated manner and for the fulfilment of an agenda.
He resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday and said he would fight the legal battle in his personal capacity.
Sixteen women named MJ Akbar in online posts accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct. There was a common pattern to survivors' accounts â€” he would set up job interviews with aspiring women journalists in hotel rooms, repeatedly call them to his office cabin for meaningless conversation and chatter, entice them with major stories, send them out of the workplace and meet them at a hotel at odd hours.
With IANS inputs