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Former union minister MJ Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani who has alleged that he sexually harassed her

The Patiala House Court, on Thursday (October 18), took cognizance of the criminal defamation case filed by BJP MP and former External Affairs Minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani and fixed Oct 31 as the date when it will examine the former editor’s complaint.

Akbar, who was forced to resign as the union minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday (October 17) amid a barrage of allegations levelled by women scribes about his alleged sexual, moral and ethical misconduct, has been accused by Ramani of sexually harassing her when she worked at The Asian Age newspaper over 20 years ago.

Following Ramani’s claims against Akbar, over 20 women journalists have so far raised similar allegations against the BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP. Akbar has dismissed all these allegations as being baseless and politically motivated. Earlier this week, he had hired senior advocate Raian Karanjawala and his firm to represent him in the criminal defamation case against Ramani.

On Thursday, as the case came up for hearing in the court of ACMM Samar Vishal, senior advocate Geeta Luthra appeared on behalf of Akbar and argued that the baseless comments made by Ramani in an article and then on Twitter had tarnished the reputation of her client.

In a bid to establish Akbar’s credentials before the court, Luthra waxed eloquent about his 40 year stint as a highly regarded journalist and editor, a former Lok Sabha member and a union minister till just a day ago. She repeatedly asserted that Ramani’s allegations, which in turn provoked similar charges being leveled by a slew of other women scribes, had done irreparable damage to Akbar’s image and had not just diminished his reputation but made it vanish altogether.

ACMM Samar Vishal heard the submissions made by Luthra and said that he was taking cognizance of the criminal defamation case under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The court then fixed October 31, 12 noon, as the next date and time of hearing in the case when it will conduct an examination of the plea filed by Akbar.

The witnesses which will be examined on the next date of hearing are Joyeeta Basu, Veenu Sandal, Syed Habibur Rehman, Tapan Chaki, Sunil Gujral, Manjal Ali etc.

Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India and a large number of eminent citizens like senior advocate Indira Jaising and common people – men and women alike – who have voiced their support for the #MeToo campaign have urged Akbar to withdraw the criminal defamation case against Ramani.

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