New Delhi: Editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar appeared in a Delhi court Wednesday where his statement was recorded in connection with a defamation suit filed by him against journalist Priya Ramani who had accused him of sexual harassment. The court began pre-summoning evidence in the case today.

"The defamatory/offending portion in particular apart from the rest of the article is when she (journalist Priya Ramani) referred to me a “talented predator” and an expert on 'so-and-so'," said Akbar in Delhi's Patiala House Court.

Akbar had sued Ramani, seeking her prosecution under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC for defamation. On October 17, Akbar had stepped down as a junior foreign minister following a flurry of allegations made against him by at least 15 women, who accused him of sexual misconduct during his stint as the editor of The Asian Age.

Major developments in the case:

  • Ramani, the first to name him in a Twitter post on October 8, had revealed that an article she had written last year about an editor inviting her to his hotel room for a job interview and asking her to sit on the bed with him, was Akbar.
  • Following this, multiple allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against the former editor. Akbar has denied the charges, terming them “a figment of imagination” and dismissed the #metoo movement as a “viral fever” in a statement. 
  • On October 19, the Patiala House court took cognizance of Akbar’s complaint under Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of the IPC.  
  • Akbar was not present at the hearing then and was represented by his counsel senior advocate Geeta Luthra and advocate Sandeep Kapur.
  • During the brief hearing, Luthra submitted that Akbar’s “reputation has been tarnished” by the tweets by “Ramani which have been read by family, friends and associates.” “He has received a number of calls from different spheres…enquiring of the allegations, causing irreparable loss to the reputation he has built in the last 40 years,” Luthra told the court.
  • Meanwhile, twenty women journalists have urged the court to also consider their testimonies and to be called as witnesses.
  • Akbar is the first minister in the Modi cabinet to resign over past allegations of sexual harassment. 
  • In a statement announcing his resignation, the former journalist said he deemed it “appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, in a personal capacity.”