Journalist Priya Ramani today pleaded not guilty as a Delhi court framed charges against her in a defamation case filed by ex-Union Minister MJ Akbar, news agency PTI reported. Ms Ramani was sued for defamation by the editor-turned-politician over her allegations of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement.
“I plead truth as my defence, made in good faith in public interest and for the public good. I will prove my defence during trial. I plead not guilty,” she said.
She was given bail on February 25 on a surety of Rs. 10,000 and was asked to appear before the court again today.
“The next date when they will frame the charges against me is April 10. After that it will be my turn to tell my story. The truth is my defence,” she had told reporters after she got bail nearly two months ago. She was represented in the court by senior lawyer Rebecca John who pointed to the absence of MJ Akbar in the court.
The court will hear the case next on May 4; it also granted permanent exemption to Ms Ramani from personal appearance after she said she has to take care of her small child, PTI reported.
Priya Ramani was the first among a number of women who accused MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as a media personality, forcing him to resign as the junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on October 17 last year. “As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court,” Ms Ramani had tweeted the day he resigned.
MJ Akbar’s legal team had told the court that Priya Ramani damaged his reputation by levelling “false, wild and baseless allegations”.
Among those who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment is a United States-based journalist who claims that she was assaulted at a Jaipur hotel over 23 years ago, followed by instances of “sexual, verbal and emotional” defilement. When the former Union Minister insisted that theirs was a consensual affair, she said that a relationship “based on coercion and abuse of power” cannot be couched in such terms.