A Delhi court on Wednesday framed charges against journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed by former minister MJ Akbar. Priya accused the former Minister of State for External Affairs of sexual harassment during last year's #MeToo movement. Priya had pleaded not guilty and chose to proceed to trial. The matter has now been listed for May 4 for recording evidence in the case.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal framed the charges. "I plead truth as my defence, made in good faith in public interest and for the public good. I will prove my defence during trial. I plead not guilty," Priya told the court.
The statements of seven witnesses, including that of Akbar, who is now with the BJP, have been recorded in the defamation case.
Priya was one of the first women to come forward in a long list of female journalists who have accused the former Minister of State for External Affairs of sexual harassment. During India’s MeToo movement last year, more than 20 women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Akbar. The former central minister had once held senior positions at several news organisations, including The Telegraph, Asian Age and India Today. He has denied the allegations, calling them “wild and baseless.”
After stories around Akbar’s alleged misconduct surfaced, demands for his resignation as Minister of State for External Affairs grew louder. He ultimately resigned from the post in October 2018 and in a statement, said he would “challenge false accusations leveled against me.”
Akbar’s complaint stated that Priya had “resorted to a series of maliciously fabricated allegations, which she is diabolically and viciously spreading using media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the Complainant is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfillment of an agenda.”
Responding to Akbar’s criminal defamation suit last October, Priya said in a statement, “I am deeply disappointed that a Union Minister should dismiss the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy. By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Akbar has made his stand clear.”
With IANS inputs