MJ Akbar Gives Court Hearing A Miss, Journalists Left Disappointed

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Following allegations of sexual assault by women journalists who worked with him when he was an editor, Akbar has filed a defamation case in a Delhi Court against one of those women journalists.

"By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Mr Akbar has made his stand clear: rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment", Ramani said in her statement.

On Wednesday several men who shared the workplace with these women came on to social media supporting their allegations.

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.

"...the Accused has made and published highly damaging imputations against the Complainant herein, intending to harm and knowing that such imputation will harm, the reputation of the Complainant, resultantly having committed the offence of "defamation" as defined under Section 499 IPC and made punishable under Section 500 IPC". Priya Ramani, against whom he filed the case of criminal defamation, was the first of his many accusers. "I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #metoo".

M.J. Akbar, who became junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government after a glittering journalistic career, maintained however that the barrage of allegations were false.

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In a statement, Ramani said she was "deeply disappointed" with Akbar's decision to take legal action against her.

"Criminal defamation is usually an arm twisting tactic and works as a deterrent because nobody wants to be potentially embroiled in court for years or face a jail term", said Samudra Sarangi, a partner at Indian law firm Panag & Babu which represents clients in defamation lawsuits.

Allegations from other women followed. "The allegations on him should be properly investigated". Ramani had written about her experience in a Vogue India article in October 2017 where she called out a "celebrity editor" without naming him for his inappropriate behaviour with women journalists.

A microphone and placards are placed on the pavement as Indian journalists attend a protest against what they say is sexual harassment in the workplace in New Delhi, India, October 13, 2018.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal at the Patiala House courts took cognisance of the complaint after a brief argument by Geeta Luthra, counsel for Mr. Akbar.

More than 12 women, apart from Priya Ramani have, over the past few days, recounted instances of alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar. "When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do" anything.'", Akbar said.

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