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Karanjawala files criminal defamation suit for ex-journo MJ Akbar over one #MeToo accuser’s tweets [READ COMPLAINT]

MJ Akbar files criminal defamation suit against #MeToo accuserMJ Akbar files criminal defamation suit against #MeToo accuser

Karanjawala & Co has filed a criminal defamation complaint for parliamentarian MJ Akbar today against a female journalist who had alleged in Tweets on 8 October that she had been sexually harassed by him while he was her boss and a senior editor.

The complaint, a copy of which we have seen, has been made under the controversial Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), requesting the Patiala House district court of Delhi to “prosecute and punish the Accused Person in accordance with the provision of law”.

Criminal defamation under section 499 and 500 of the IPC carries a possible maximum jail term of two years and potential fine.

The Supreme Court had upheld criminal defamation as constitutional, despite fierce criticism of its chilling effects on journalists and unfairly gagging freedom of speech.

Her Tweets outing Akbar had referenced an open letter published under her name in Vogue India magazine in October 2017, which had not named Akbar but had recounted an experience when she was 23 about her “dear male boss” editor 20 years her senior.

She had recounted an alleged job interview apparently with Akbar that was “more date, less interview”.

However, in her 8 October Tweet, she wrote: “I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator”.

Akbar’s criminal petition claimed that “the accused herself, while putting forward the aforementioned defamatorystatements, relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, simultaneously admits that the complainant has not done anything to her”.

The female journalist’s allegations had been widely re-reported and were followed by at least two other separate #MeToo accounts published in the media against Akbar, a former Telegraph and Asian Age editor.

The allegations had led to speculation about Akbar’s possible resignation until he said yesterday that he would contest the allegation.

We have reached out to her for comment.

Update 18:03: Five journalists who had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct, including the one now facing the defamation action, said they stood by their statements in the face of his legal threats, reported the Indian Express.

Read MJ Akbar complaint (PDF)

Photo by Mubasshir Mushtaq.

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