After journalist Priya Ramani allegedly exposed the misdeeds of MJ Akbar, which led to 13 other women sharing their harrowing experiences of sexual harassment with the journalist-turned-junior minister, he filed a defamation case against her today. Akbar recently returned to India after a foreign trip and in his media interaction called the #MeToo movement a political agenda.
“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill,” he said.
In his petition against Ramani, he accused her of “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defaming him. He has also sought her prosecution under the penal provision of defamation.
“The complainant (Akbar) also had a long career in journalism, he launched India’s first weekly political news magazine…,” the complaint said, listing out defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media against him.
“Whilst it is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously serious allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spreading in media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the complainant (Akbar) is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfilment of an agenda,” the complaint said.
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The complaint further said how Ramani’s allegations are “scandalous” in nature and have damaged Akbar’s goodwill and reputation in his social circle. The allegations also affected Akbar’s reputation in the community and friends, family and colleagues and caused irreparable loss and tremendous distress
Advocate Sandeep Kapur filed the complaint for Akbar, which seeks issuance of notice to Ramani under Section 499 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
While many predicted that Akbar would resign from his post, he has rejected calls for his resignation as MoS External Affairs and sought to link the allegations against him to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Apart from Ramani, other women who have accused Akbar include Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul. About the defamation case, Ramani told Telegraph, “The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried.”
“He has decided to brazen it out. Political establishment is clearly supporting him whose Beti Bachao slogan rings more hollow every day. There is no conspiracy against Akbar. None of us — unlike him — has any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives,” Ramani added.
The journalist had written about her account of sexual harassment in Vogue magazine last year but she had not named Akbar in her story. After the #MeToo campaign paced up in India, she decided to reveal the identity in a tweet.
Akbar responded to the tweet saying, “Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not however name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: ‘Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.’ If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story?”. He added that both Ramani and Wahab continued working with him even after these incidents.