The Hindu (Mumbai)

Delhi HC allows M.J. Akbar’s plea for early hearing in appeal case


The Delhi High Court on Friday allowed former Union Minister M.J. Akbar’s plea seeking an early hearing of his appeal challengin­g a trial court order acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by him over her allegation­s of sexual harassment.

The High Court listed the appeal for hearing on April 26, saying its board is very heavy and it would not be possible to hear the matter in March. It had admitted Mr. Akbar’s appeal in January 2022.

In his applicatio­n, Mr. Akbar said he is a senior citizen and a senior journalist. He said two years have passed since the filing of his appeal and urged the court for an early hearing.

On January 13, 2022, the High Court had agreed to examine Mr. Akbar’s appeal against the trial court order and admitted the appeal. It has also issued notice to Ms. Ramani in the case.

Ms. Ramani’s counsel said the only ground mentioned in the plea for an expeditiou­s hearing of the appeal is that Mr. Akbar is still aggrieved by the alleged defamation caused in 2018, for which Ms. Ramani has already faced trial and has been acquitted by the trial court.

Trial court order

In his appeal, Mr. Akbar 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 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 trial 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,” Mr. Akbar’s appeal stated.

Mr. Akbar has also claimed that the trial court “gravely erred” in observing that he did not have a stellar reputation and ignored wellestabl­ished principles of criminal jurisprude­nce.

Mr. Akbar challenged the trial court’s February 17, 2021 order that acquitted Ms. Ramani in the case on the ground that a woman has the right to put grievances before any platform of her choice even after decades. The trial court rejected Mr. Akbar’s complaint noting that, “woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades”.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ?? The former Union Minister had filed his plea in the High Court in January 2022.
FILE PHOTO The former Union Minister had filed his plea in the High Court in January 2022.

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