MJ Akbar's lawyers told the court that Priya Ramani's article and tweets have spoiled his reputation and goodwill built over 40 years. Mr Akbar, the lawyer said, has resigned due to these allegations. The 1200 likes and 200 retweets of Priya Ramani's article show how widely it was read and her tweets were picked up by international media, the lawyers said.
The court agreed that there is merit in the arguments and a defamation case can be heard. The judge, Samar Vishal, has asked that Mr Akbar -- who was absent today -- present himself in court on October 31 and record his statement.
In his first detailed statement after returning to India from a foreign visit, Mr Akbar said, "Ms Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not however name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do anything. If I didn't do anything, where and what is the story? There is no story. This was admitted at the very inception."
"MJ Akbar seeks to silence through intimidation and harassment. Those who have spoken against Akbar have done so at great risk to personal and professional lives... truth and the absolute truth are my only defence," Priya Ramani had said.
A group of 19 women journalists who worked with 'The Asian Age' newspaper, have expressed support for Priya Ramani. The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimony against MJ Akbar. They claimed some of them have been sexually harassed by him and others have been a witness to it.
The Editors' Guild of India has come out in support of the 20 women journalists. Expressing concern over Mr Akbar's defamation case, the Guild said he should withdraw it.
Mr Akbar was the first minister to quit PM Modi's council of ministers. In a short statement announcing his resignation yesterday, he said, "Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity".
The former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age was named by Ms Ramani in a tweet on October 8. She said MJ Akbar was the man she had written about in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US set off an avalanche of #MeToo allegations.
After Ms Ramani named him, more women posted their stories against MJ Akbar. The list includes Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.
The MeToo movement, which began in the US more than a year ago after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, gained traction in India last month after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. Since then, several men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
New Delhi: Former Union minister MJ Akbar has been asked to come and record his statement on October 31 by a Delhi court which today agreed to hear his defamation case against one of the multiple women who accused him of sexual harassment. Mr Akbar has trashed the allegations. His lawyers today said he had to quit his job as the junior foreign minister because of the allegations. Journalist Priya Ramani's defamatory tweets, they said, "were picked up by the foreign media". Ms Ramani, who was the first woman to call out Mr Akbar under the growing #MeToo movement in India, has said the truth is her "only defence".