MJ Akbar defamation: Court reserves order on summoning Priya Ramani
On Tuesday, a Delhi court reserved its verdict on whether to summon journalist Priya Ramani as an accused in a defamation case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar, who the journalist had accused of sexual misconduct. Ramani's accusations, amid the raging #MeToo movement in India, had resulted in Akbar resignation last year, and the former minister had sued her defamation. Here's more.
Earlier, on January 11, the court hearing the case had recorded the statements of three women who support Akbar's defamation case against Ramani. Giving their statements, the women told the court that they were extremely "distressed and dismayed" at the grave damage that had been caused to Akbar's reputation owing the the #MeToo allegations.
In total, six women - Joyeeta Basu, Sunil Gujral, Veenu Sandal, Tapan Chaki, Manzar Ali and Rachna Goel - have supported Akbar's defamation case against Ramani, and it has been reported that all six knew Akbar closely on both a professional and at a personal level. Apart from calling Ramani's allegations defamatory, all six vouched for Akbar's professionalism.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a booklet with a photo of MJ Akbar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on its cover was distributed to delegates at Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in Varanasi. Understandably, the distribution of the booklet triggered a controversy, and the Opposition attacked the government over it. The Center, however, said the booklet was printed months before Akbar resigned.
It all started in early October when Ramani broke her silence and accused Akbar of sexual misconduct during the days when the former minister was a journalist. Akbar, who was on a tour of Africa then, saw that his name had surfaced on social media as part of the ongoing #MeToo movement. Subsequently, he denied all charges and filed a defamation suit against Ramani.
Once Ramani broke her silence, multiple accounts of sexual misconduct on part of Akbar surfaced, with as many as 20 women accusing him. Akbar was also accused of rape by journalist Pallavi Gogoi. With pressure mounting, Akbar resigned on October 17, and said he would "challenge the false accusations" and "seek justice in a court of law".