MJ Akbars statement disappointing, ready to fight defamation complaint: Journalist Priya Ramani

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi

Union minister and veteran journalist M.J. Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani after she and 13 other former colleagues accused him of sexual harassment and assault.

Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar files a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani's allegations, the first one to publically accuse Akbar of misconduct.

The case was filed before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House Court.

After returning from Africa, the Minister of State for External Affairs had Sunday rejected the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him by several women as "false, fabricated and deeply distressing".

"Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections", said Mr Akbar, 67, in a statement. In a statement on Sunday, he denied the charges as "false, wild and baseless".

In a write-up for Vogue previous year, Ramani had talked about an editor who had invited her to his Mumbai hotel room for a job interview two decades ago, offered her drinks, asked her to sit beside her on the bed, and sung for her. Listing his accomplishments as an editor as well as an author, Akbar said publication of Ramani's allegations had caused "great humiliation to him" and severely tarnished his reputation in the eyes of the public as well as his family, friends, colleagues, political fraternity and associates. "You be the judge", he said in the statement.

Ramani was the first to level allegations of harassment against the minister when she claimed last Tuesday that Akbar was the same unnamed man she accused of harassment in an article for Vogue in 2017. "I am, however, very comfortable with my story". Senior Congress leaders have been demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comment on the issue and that strict action be taken against Akbar.

Mr Akbar, who returned from an official trip overseas on Monday, has called the allegations "false" and "baseless". Without identifying Akbar, she detailed alleged unwarranted advances made by him 20 years ago when she was 23 years of age. Moreover, he alleged that these accusations could be an agenda as they have surfaced a few months before the 2019 elections.

The Network for Women in Media India, for instance, has swung into action too, "It's one thing to name and shame but it's time to look at redressal methods as well", says independent journalist and Radio Anchor Vasanthi Hariprakash, a long-time member of the association.

In a related development, Ghazala Wahab, another woman journalist who has complained against Akbar, on Monday hit back saying "lies do not have legs" and they "do not go far".

In his statement later, Akbar had chose to take legal action against those women, who had accused him of sexual misconduct during his time as the editor of Asian Age and The Telegraph.

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