The plea of MJ Akbar, the former union minister, challenging the acquittal of senior journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case against her was adjourned by the Delhi High Court till May 5, Live Law reported.
Akbar filed a defamation case against Ramani in 2018 after she accused him of sexual misconduct in 1993 when Akbar was the editor-in-chief of The Asian Age.
In the heyday of the #MeToo movement, Ramani had written an article for Vogue on October 12, 2017. The article, titled To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World, was addressed to “Dear Male Boss”. At that time, the identity of the boss was kept anonymous.
In October 2018, Ramani named Akbar as the editor who had harassed her. She said that the incident occurred during an interview with Akbar at a hotel room in Mumbai in 1993. Ramani said that she had decided to name him publicly after a number of women came forward to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment.
Akbar soon resigned from the Union Council of Ministers and filed a criminal case of defamation against Ramani. Akbar has since been denying the charges, claiming that he doesn’t remember the incident and has alleged that Ramani’s allegations were “malicious and fabricated”.
Over the past two years, Ramani’s lawyer, senior advocate Rebecca John, had pointed out more than 15 women who accused Akbar of sexually assaulting them and who came out in the same year during the #MeToo movement.
Throughout the tenure of the trial, Ramani had pleaded “truth, good faith, public interest, and public good” as her defence.
Akbar had filed the defamation case against Ramani on the grounds that her accusation was the first one that harmed his “impeccable reputation”.
During the final hearing on February 17, the court accepted the possibility of Ramani’s defence that she disclosed her truth based on her own testimony along with that of Niloufer and Ghazala Wahab and hence Akbar was not a man of “stellar reputation”.
The court had also taken into consideration the existence of systematic abuse at the workplace and the absence of Vishakha guidelines at the relevant time.
While observing that “a man of social status” can also be “a sexual harasser”, the court had said, “Right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of (the) right to dignity”.
Delhi’s Rouse Avenue court had acquitted Ramani of all charges in the case.
After nearly a month of the judgement on Wednesday, Akbar moved the Delhi High Court to challenge Ramani’s acquittal in the case.