New Delhi: Belying speculations of his resignation, Union minister of state for external affairs and former editor, M.J. Akbar, who has been facing allegations of sexual harassment by at least 11 journalists who once worked under him, has now decided to file a private criminal defamation suit against Priya Ramani, the senior journalist who first accused him of sexual misconduct.
Hours after he returned from his African tour, he dismissed the allegations as part of a political vendetta against him ahead of the 2019 general elections. He termed the allegations as “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and had said he would be taking appropriate legal action against them.
In the defamation suit filed on October 15, Akbar has alleged that Ramani intended to defame and damage his reputation. “The accused (Ramani) has made false, derogatory and malicious imputations against the complainant,” the plea said.
The suit also said that while making allegations of sexual misconduct that she said happened 20 years ago, Ramani, in the Vogue article where she first talks about Akbar’s alleged perverse behaviour, has herself said that Akbar “has not done anything to her”.
Ramani released a statement soon after the suit was filed, saying that it’s clear that Akbar has made his stand clear and that she is ready to fight the allegations of defamation. “Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment,” her statement reads.
My statement pic.twitter.com/1W7M2lDqPN
— Priya Ramani (@priyaramani) October 15, 2018
Ramani had published an article in Vogue India in 2017 in which she had not named Akbar. However, with the #MeToo movement escalating on social media, she decided to name and shame him on Twitter with the link to the original article. Following her outing of Akbar, many others came forward to narrate their stories of alleged sexual harassment by the former editor of The Telegraph, The Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian.
The suit filed on behalf of Akbar by counsels Karanjawala and company added that this was enough ground to indicate that the defamatory articles (by Ramani) are “only a figment of her imagination and are only intended to malign the reputation of the complainant”.
“The complainant has received a number of calls from his friends and colleagues, both from the media as well as the political sphere, inquiring about the allegations put forth in the false and defamatory statements of the Accused, thereby causing irreparable loss to his reputation,” the plea said.