#MeToo: Hearing on Akbar’s plea posted to May 5

In HC, former Union Minister has challenged a trial court order acquitting Priya Ramani in defamation case

The Delhi High Court on Thursday posted for May 5 the hearing on a plea by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar challenging a trial court order acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case for her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.

The petition, scheduled to come up for hearing on Thursday, could not be taken up as Justice Mukta Gupta was not holding court.

Mr. Akbar has moved the High Court against a February 17 verdict of a trial court here dismissing his criminal defamation case against Ms. Ramani.

The trial court had accepted Ms. Ramani’s argument that she spoke out against Mr. Akbar after two decades of the incident “in public interest and for the public good.”

“The woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades,” Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey had said.

The trial court had also accepted Ms. Ramani’s contention that Mr. Akbar “is not a man of stellar reputation” on the basis of her testimony and testimony of senior journalist Ghazala Wahab, who too claimed of being sexually harassed by Mr. Akbar.

Mr. Akbar had in his criminal defamation complaint claimed that Ms. Ramani’s tweet and her article accusing him of sexual harassment were defamatory, and lowered his reputation. He also said that Ms. Ramani didn’t produce any evidence to prove her story.

However, Ms. Ramani pleaded truth as her defence in relation to the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Akbar. She said her tweet and subsequent article alleging Mr. Akbar of sexual harassment during his previous role as newspaper editor was made in “good faith” and for public good.

At the height of the #MeToo movement in 2018, Ms. Ramani accused Mr. Akbar of sexual harassment. Following Ms. Ramani’s accusation, about dozen former colleagues of Mr. Akbar also came out with different allegations against him.

Days before he resigned from his post of Minister of State for External Affairs in October 2018, Mr. Akbar filed a criminal defamation case against Ms. Ramani citing her open letter published in a magazine and her tweets naming him.

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