Journalist Priya Ramani, who is facing criminal defamation charges over #MeToo allegations against editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar, was granted bail on Monday by a local court.
Ramani appeared before the Patiala House Court for the first time after she was summoned by the court. The journalist was given bail on a surety of Rs. 10,000 and was asked to appear before the court again on April 10.
“The next date when they will frame the charges against me is April 10. After that it will be my turn to tell my story. The truth is my defence,” she told reporters.
MJ Akbar’s lawyer said they will oppose Ramani’s request for exemption from appearance in court.
Priya Ramani was the first among a number of women who accused MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as a media personality, forcing him to resign as the junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on October 17 last year.
“As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court,” Ramani had tweeted the day he resigned.
The politician filed a defamation case against her, following which Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal summoned her. “Time to tell our side of the story,” she tweeted hours after the summons.
MJ Akbar’s legal team, comprising senior advocate Geeta Luthra and lawyer Sandeep Kapur, had told the court that Ms Ramani damaged his reputation by levelling ‘false, wild and baseless allegations.’
Among those who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment is a United States-based journalist who claims that she was assaulted at a Jaipur hotel over 23 years ago, followed by instances of ‘sexual, verbal and emotional’ defilement.
When the former Union Minister insisted that theirs was a consensual affair, she said that a relationship ‘based on coercion and abuse of power’ cannot be couched in such terms.
Akbar, the former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age, was named by Ramani on October 8, last year, as 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. At that time she had not disclosed Akbar’s name, choosing to address the perpetrator as ‘Mr Editor’.
After Ramani named him, more women posted their eerily similar stories on social media, primarily Twitter, against Akbar.