Journalist Priya Rama on Wednesday pleaded not guilty as a Delhi court framed defamation charges against her in a case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar.
Ramani, who appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, however, pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.
Ramani was granted bail in the case in February. She had told the media:
After Ramani made sexual harassment allegations against Akbar on social media, over 20 women journalists — who worked with Akbar during his time as editor in various publications — followed suit.
Akbar had to step down from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs in light of the allegations made against him.
Women who had accused Akbar of predatory behaviour had said in a statement:
When Ms. Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr. Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.
Ms. Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment.
However, while resigning from his post, Akbar denied the allegations and called them fabricated.
In his defamation suit against Ramani, Akbar had said that “while admitting that the Complainant has never done anything to her, the accused has intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious imputations to harm the reputation of the Complainant.”
Ramani had written an article in Vogue IN 2017 titled To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, where she recounted her first experience of workplace harassment. This was when the #MeToo movement was taking place in the United States last year.
Ramani hadn’t named anyone in her account, but in October 2018, she said on Twitter that she was referring to Akbar as the editor who interviewed her in his hotel room.
Akbar, still a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, was the founding editor of The Telegraph, launched The Asian Age and has worked in several other media organisations.
(With PTI inputs)