The Delhi High Court on Wednesday, 5 May, adjourned the appeal of former Union Minister MJ Akbar in the criminal defamation case that acquitted journalist Priya Ramani on 11 August, saying that there were far more important matters, as per Bar & Bench.
Akbar had filed an appeal against the journalist’s acquittal on 24 March, less than a month after a Delhi trial court on Wednesday, 17 February, acquitted Ramani in the defamation case.
Ramani had accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in 2018. Akbar had filed a defamation complaint against Ramani on 15 October 2018. He resigned from the post of Union Minister two days after filing the complaint.
The matter was taken up before Justice Mukta Gupta who called upon the entire trial court record of the case.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for Akbar, submitted to the court that the previous judgment acknowledged Ramani’s statements against Akbar were defamatory, but she was still acquitted in the case.
She further submitted to the court that this was a special-category matter.
"“There are far more important matters. This is a regular criminal appeal. There is no urgency in this matter.”" - Justice Mukta GuptaPriya Ramani’s Acquittal
The Rouse Avenue Court in February held the content of Ramani’s article for the Vogue magazine that referred to Akbar, as defamatory and rejected her claims that only a few paragraphs referred to him.
However, the court also took into consideration the systematic abuse at workplace and said that “women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse by complaints claiming defamation”.
Pronouncing the verdict, Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey said, “The Indian Constitution allows a woman to put forward her grievance before any forum and at any time, even after decades.”
What Were MJ Akbar’s Claims?
Akbar had claimed that an article on sexual harassment by Ramani, written for Vogue in 2017 amid the #MeToo movement, and a subsequent tweet about him in 2018 had caused damage to his “stellar reputation”.
Akbar’s legal team had claimed that Ramani’s article ‘per se’ was defamatory as there was no basis for it. This claim was based on an interpretation of the Vogue article that viewed the entire piece as referring to Akbar and not just a few paragraphs as was claimed by Ramani in her defence.
Luthra had argued that Akbar has had a “long and illustrious career” and had exhibited documents before the court to prove his “impeccable reputation”.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench)
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