Delhi District and Sessions Judge Sujata Kohli decided on Thursday that the criminal defamation case filed by author-turned-politician MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani will continue in the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishaj Pahuja, of Rouse Avenue Court in the national Capital, Live Law reported. Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment in October 2018, following which he sued her.
Pahuja told both parties on October 13 that his court does not have the jurisdiction to continue hearing the case. The court had been hearing the case for two years. Pahuja said that as per a circular from February 2018, the court can only hear cases filed against MPs or MLAs, and not by them. The case then came up for hearing before Kohli, who on October 14 said she would pronounce her decision on October 22.
Pahuja will now take up the matter on November 2, Live Law reported. Most of the hearings in the case have already been completed.
Ramani had first made the allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified Akbar as that editor in October 2018 during the #MeToo movement, in a series of tweets. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career.
The Patiala House Court had on January 2019 issued summons to Ramani in the defamation case. In February 2019, she was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. In May 2019, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. He denied all information about the meeting that Ramani had narrated.
Ramani told the court in Delhi on September 19 that she deserved to be acquitted, because she shared her experience in good faith and encouraged other women to speak out against sexual harassment. Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John, while submitting her final arguments in the case, said that Ramani had proved her allegations against Akbar with solid evidence, which were also confirmed by multiple women.
Ramani’s lawyer also responded to Akbar’s accusation that her tweets had tarnished the reputation he built through his work. “Hard work is not exclusive to MJ Akbar,” she quoted Ramani as saying. “This case is not about how hard he worked.. My case is that before I met him, I admired him as a journalist. But his conduct with me and the shared experience of other women do not justify this complaint.”