#MeToo: Three judges heard Akbar's defamation case against Ramani

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) Three judges conducted trial over two years in the criminal defamation complaint of former union minister M J Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani who got acquitted on Wednesday.

The case was filed by Akbar on October 15, 2018 which was listed before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, who was presiding over a court designated to try cases against the lawmakers.

The judge took cognizance of the criminal defamation complaint on October 18 and Akbar started recording his testimony on October 30.

ACMM Vishal summoned Ramani on January 29, 2019 and granted her bail on February 25 after she appeared before the court. On April 10, Ramani pleaded not guilty.

ACMM Vishal recorded the testimony of Akbar and his cross examination by Ramani's lawyer. He also recorded the statements of the witnesses produced by Akbar in support of his claim and their cross examination by Ramani's lawyer.

The judge further recorded the statement of Ramani and the defence witnesses.

After ACMM Vishal's transfer, a new judge, ACMM Vishal Pahuja, started hearing the case in November, 2019, when Ramani, her witness and friend Niloufer Venkatraman were being cross-examined by Akbar's counsel.

On February 7, 2020 ACMM Pahuja started final arguments in the case. Between March to August 2020, the court proceedings were disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The hearing resumed on September 5, 2020 with counsel for Ramani starting the final arguments in the case on her behalf.

On September 19, ACMM Pahuja sent the case files to the District Judge, seeking transfer of the matter to another court on the ground that his court was designated to hear cases filed against lawmakers.

The District Judge, on October 22 refused to transfer the case to another court and sent it back to ACMM Pahuja who was hearing the matter.

On November 18, however, ACMM Pahuja was transferred to another court by an order of Delhi High Court. Besides Pahuja, 214 other judicial officers were transferred to different courts in Delhi.

A new judge, ACMM Ravindra Kumar Pandey, started hearing afresh the final arguments in the case on November 21 and reserved the verdict on February 1, 2021 for February 10.

However, the verdict was deferred for February 17 since it was not ready as both the parties filed their written submissions late.

ACMM Pandey acquitted Ramani in a verdict passed on Wednesday. PTI UK PKS RKS RKS