MJ Akbar had termed allegations against him by female journalists as "false, fabricated and deeply distressing." He followed up his denial with a legal suit today. Akbar was a celebrated editor in India before he entered politics and become a member of the Upper House of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and subsequently a cabinet minister.
Akbar filed the private criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who recently leveled charges of sexual misconduct against him, claiming he'd mistreated her while working as an editor. Several female journalists came forward after Ramani's complaint, also accusing Akbar of sexual harassment.
Union Minister MJ Akbar files criminal defamation case in Delhi's Patiala House Court against journalist Priya Ramani, through his advocates Karanjawala & Co. pic.twitter.com/JilOOi3Fw4— ANI (@ANI) October 15, 2018
In his criminal defamation suit, the Minister of State for External Affairs of India has accused Ramani of "willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defaming him and has sought her prosecution under India's law criminalizing defamation.
"The complainant (Akbar) also had a long career in journalism, he launched India's first weekly political news magazine," the complaint reads, addressing the allegations made by Ramani on social media.
Being a teenager in M.J. Akbar’s newsroom. My account of sexual harassment. https://t.co/t2f3Axbhck— Priya Ramani (@priyaramani) October 14, 2018
Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code states that if found guilty, the accused may be sentenced to two years in jail, fined, or both.
Several Indian journalists have come out in support of Priya Ramani.
In total solidarity with @priyaramani & all women who have bravely chronicled their harassment & abuse at the hands of #MkJakbar. Hope fight goes beyond defense in defamation to actively pursuing other options like prosecution; NCW, Parliament panels. I stand with you #MeToo
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) October 15, 2018
Hey @priyaramani and all 14 who have spoke up. Let’s crowd fund your defence. I am sure may top lawyers will help you fight pro bono, but we at @MoneylifeIndia know there are lots of expenses involved! So think about it! Happy to support I am sure thousands of others will too! https://t.co/WmSnOfFKQy— Sucheta Dalal (@suchetadalal) October 15, 2018
"I stand by my testimony of the two incidents — one in which he plucked my bra strap, and the other when he stared at my breasts. I also stand by the fact that he did the same with other women in the office. I am disappointed with Akbar's response but I am not surprised. This is going to be a longish battle, and the next step in many cases is a legal step," the Indian Express quoted Suparna Sharma as saying.
In the wake of the #Me Too campaign in India, in which several media, sports, film and other female personalities have come forward to narrate their stories of sexual harassment, India's Ministry of Women and Child Development oand the Delhi Commission for Women have set up separate committees to look into the complaints.