The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought journalist Priya Ramani's stand on former Union minister M J Akbar's appeal against a trial court verdict in his criminal defamation case against her over sexual harassment allegations on the grounds that it was "based on surmises and conjecture".
The trial court decided the case as though it was a sexual harassment case instead of the defamation case he had filed against her, MJ Akbar has told the high court in his appeal.
"The impugned judgement, being based on surmises and conjecture, cannot stand muster even from a prima facie view, and therefore, is liable to be set aside," MJ Akbar has said.
Justice Mukta Gupta issued notice to Ms Ramani on the appeal and listed it for further hearing on January 13.
Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Geeta Luthra, appearing for MJ Akbar, contended that the trial court erroneously acquitted Ms Ramani in spite of concluding that her allegations were defamatory in nature.
"He (trial court judge) says defamation is made out. Case is under Section 499 IPC. He finds it defamatory. Judgement should have concluded after this finding is returned," Mr Nayar submitted.
The court responded that finding any content defamatory is the "first step" in the proceedings, after which the trial court has to consider the defense of the accused.
"The trial court says per se they are defamatory and but in context of which she made the allegations, there was a valid defense," the judge stated.
Senior counsel Mr Luthra contended that the trial court handed out the verdict without considering any object ions raised during the trial.
"Nothing is decided. The (trial) court went on to decide about Ram and Ravan. Objections are not decided or looked into," she said.
MJ Akbar, in his plea field 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 (Ms 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 reads.
MJ 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."
MJ Akbar has challenged the trial court's February 17 order acquitting Ms 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 MJ Akbar, saying no charges were proved against Ms Ramani.
It had said it was of the considered view that the case of MJ Akbar regarding commission of offence punishable under Section 500 (punishment for the offence of defamation) IPC against Ms 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.
Ms Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against MJ Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018.
MJ Akbar had filed the complaint against Ms 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.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)