The Delhi High Court Thursday agreed to examine former Union Minister M J Akbar's appeal against the trial court order acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in his criminal defamation case over her allegations of sexual harassment.
“Admit. List in due course,” said Justice Mukta Gupta who had issued notice to Ramani on the appeal in August last year. Lawyer Bhavook Chauhan appeared for Ramani before the court and sought time to file a response to Akbar's plea. He said that submissions have to be made on the aspect of “leave to appeal”. Senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, representing Akbar, submitted that he was not seeking any interim order in the matter as his plea challenged an acquittal and urged the court to admit the appeal.
Justice Gupta stated that the complainant has the right to file an appeal and admitted the same. Senior advocate Geeta Luthra also appeared for Akbar. In his appeal, Akbar has contended that the trial court decided his criminal defamation case on the basis of surmises and conjecture and as though it was a case of sexual harassment. The plea, filed through Senior Partner, Karanjawala & Co – Sandeep Kapur, has contended that the trial court failed to appreciate the arguments and evidence on record.
“Trial Court has erred in considering the instant case as a complaint for sexual harassment when it was in fact a complaint for defamation... the Ld. Court ought to have considered the evidence presented by the Respondent (Ramani) herein from the perspective of a defamation case as the Respondent has presented no admissible corroboratory evidence, other than her own testimony,” the appeal said.
Akbar has also claimed that the trial court “gravely erred” in observing that he did not have a stellar reputation and has ignored the well-established principles of criminal jurisprudence. “The Ld. ACMM, while passing the impugned judgment, has erroneously relied upon the contention of the Respondent, that the Appellant herein is not a man of stellar and impeccable reputation, which speaks volumes about the non-application of mind, while passing the impugned judgment, rendering the same as bad in law and on facts,” the plea said.
Akbar has challenged the trial court's February 17, 2021 order acquitting Ramani in the case on grounds that a woman has the right to put grievances before any platform of her choice even after decades. The trial court had dismissed the complaint filed by Akbar, saying no charges were proved against Ramani. It had said it was of the considered view that the case of Akbar regarding commission of offence punishable under Section 500 (punishment for the offence of defamation) IPC against Ramani is not proved and she is acquitted for the same.
The court had said it was shameful that crimes against women are taking place in a country where mega epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana were written about respecting them. The glass ceiling will not prevent Indian women as a roadblock in advancement in society of equal opportunities, it had said. Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018. Akbar had filed the complaint against Ramani on October 15, 2018 for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago. He resigned as a Union minister on October 17, 2018.
-With PTI Inputs