Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar filed a criminal defamation case in a New Delhi court on Monday against journalist Priya Ramani, one of the journalists who accused him of sexual harassment.
The case was filed before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House Court. It is not clear why the case has been filed only against Ramani.
Ramani was the first of the more than 10 women journalists who accused Akbar of sexual harassment before he joined politics.
Ramani had on 8 October posted a tweet naming Akbar, which inspired other journalists to come out with their own stories of alleged harassment at the hands of the journalist-turned-politician.
Akbar, who returned from an official tour of Nigeria on Sunday, had issued a statement claiming that the allegations against him are “false and fabricated”.
“The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad,” he said in a statement issued shortly after arriving in New Delhi.
Akbar, who was a reputed journalist before he joined politics, had said that he will take legal action against the accusers adding that his lawyers will look into the “wild and baseless allegations”.
“Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” he said.
Akbar also gave the allegations a political colour by questioning their timing before the Lok Sabha elections 2019.
“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill,” he said.
In his statement, he picked up Ramani’s accusation and defended himself by claiming that there is “no story” because he did nothing.
“Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not however name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: ‘Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.’,” Akbar said.
“If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story? There’s no story. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn’t do anything, ” he added.
Reacting to Akbar’s statement that was issued yesterday, Ramani told the media that “truth is the best defence” and she is not worried about the possibility of a defamation case.
“He has decided to brazen it out. He’s clearly being supported by a political establishment whose Beti Bachao slogan rings more hollow every day. There is no conspiracy against Akbar. None of us — unlike him — has any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives,” Ramani told The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Youth Congress members broke the barricade outside Akbar’s residence on Monday and clashed with the police while demanding the resignation of the MoS.
On Sunday, the Congress had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over Akbar.
“It is a question of women’s dignity, security and safety. It was expected that the Minister concerned would give an immediate explanation,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
“But it was equally the duty of the Prime Minister, Constitutional duty and moral duty, to speak. Why the Prime Minister has chosen to be silent is the fundamental question. Tell the country what your views are,” Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.