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Court takes cognisance of Akbar’s defamation case, his statement to be recorded on Oct 31

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MJ Akbar

New Delhi | A Delhi court on Thursday decided to record the statement of former minister M J Akbar’s criminal defamation complaint of being accused of sexual misconduct by journalist Priya Ramani, on October 31.

The court took judicial note of the complaint against Ramani, who has accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago and decided to record the statement in the case.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal heard the submissions of senior advocate Geeta Luthra, representing the former minister, that the “defamatory” tweets and similar social media posts of Ramani have caused irreparable loss to his reputation built over 40 years.

“Let the matter be fixed for examination of the complainant (Akbar) and his witnesses (six) for October 31,” the magistrate said.

Luthra mentioned that Ramani’ objectionable tweets have been merrily retweeted by a number of other people and various news items were written on their basis in national and international newspapers and other media platforms.

Luthra said calling Akbar a “predator” in tweets was “defamatory” and also referred to an article written by Ramani herself.

“My (Akbar) reputation lowered in public. People have read tweets and the article (by Ramani). Number of retweets and ‘likes’ crossed thousands which showed the extent of defamation,” the counsel said.

The senior lawyer referred to the sequence of events and said that Akbar has resigned from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs due to these allegations made in the “defamatory” tweets and other posts.

She also referred to the reputation of Akbar as a journalist and sought judicial intervention in the matter by taking cognisance of the complaint.

“My position has been damaged. My reputation has been damaged. I have been elected to Parliament. I am a longstanding journalist and have written various books. This shows I had a reputation, which has been damaged,” the senior counsel said.

As per Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the court would now record the pre-summoning evidence and statement of Akbar and other witnesses, referred to in the complaint and would issue notice to Ramani to face trial if it is satisfied that there are prima-facie substance in the complaint.

Akbar on Wednesday had tendered his resignation after making it clear that he had filed the case in his “personal” capacity and would fight it out in the court of law.

“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. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” Akbar had said in his letter.

Akbar on Monday had filed the criminal defamation complaint against Ramani alleging she “wilfully” and “maliciously” made imputations against him with the ulterior motive of maligning his reputation and political standing.

Expressing her readiness to fight the defamation allegations, Ramani had said, “Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he (Akbar) seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment.”

Akbar’s plea had listed alleged defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media and also referred to his “long and illustrious” career as a journalist while terming the allegations of Ramani as a “figment of her imagination”.

“Whilst it is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously serious allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spreading in media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the complainant (Akbar) is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfilment of an agenda,” it alleged.

It had termed as “scandalous” the allegations made by Ramani and said the “very tone and tenor” are “ex-facie defamatory” and they have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation in his social circle but also affected Akbar’s reputation in “the community, friends, family and colleagues” and caused “irreparable loss” and “tremendous distress”.

It had claimed that the woman journalist, while putting forward the allegations relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, “intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious imputations to harm the reputation of the complainant”.

“The conduct of the accused person, of not taking any action before any authority, qua the alleged incident against the complainant also clearly belies the sanctity of the article and allegations made by the accused person, which evidently goes on to prove that the said defamatory articles are only a figment of her imagination,” it said.

Section 500 of the IPC provides for the sentence for the offence of defamation and an accused may be awarded two-year jail term or fine or both in the event of conviction.

Akbar’s name had cropped up in the social media campaign #Metoo against alleged sexual harassment when he was in Nigeria.

Hours after returning home, Akbar had termed the allegations levelled against him by several women as “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

The women who accused Akbar of sexual harassment, included Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul.

National

For million problems in India, there are billion solutions: PM Modi

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Narendra Modi

Mumbai | Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said films and society are reflection of each other and like cinema, India too is changing with times.

The prime minister was speaking at the inauguration of the National Museum of Indian Cinema here. “The country is changing and finding its own solutions. If there are a million problems, there are also a billion solutions,” the PM said.

“Films have an important role in India’s soft power,” Modi said, while narrating how he was struck by popularity of Indian films overseas when he met and interacted with the leaders of foreign countries. He assured the film industry that effective steps are being taken to curb piracy and “camcording”.

“A single-window system for obtaining permissions for film shoots and related matters are on the anvil,” he said. Like the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, there could be a global film summit in India, the prime minister suggested.

“Films also play a big role in the growth of the tourism sector, which gives employment to even the poorest people, even ‘chaiwala’ makes money when tourism grows,” he said.

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National

Delhi court extends interim protection from arrest to Vadra’s aide till Feb 6

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Robert Vadra

New Delhi | A Delhi court on Saturday extended till February 6 the interim protection from arrest granted to Manoj Arora, a close aide of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, in a money-laundering case.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told Special Judge Arvind Kumar that Arora was cooperating in the probe. “He joined the probe yesterday. So far he is cooperating,” Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh, appearing for the ED, said.

ED’s Special Public Prosecutor Nitesh Rana sought two more weeks for arguments on the application which was allowed by the court. The case relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property — located at 12, Bryanston Square — worth 1.9 million pounds, which is allegedly owned by Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

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National

Zakir Naik case: ED attaches assets worth Rs 16.40 cr under PMLA

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zakir-naik

New Delhi | The ED has attached fresh assets worth Rs 16.40 crore in connection with its money-laundering probe against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, it said on Saturday.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), in a statement, said it had issued a provisional order for attachment of Naik’s assets, located in Mumbai and Pune, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The estimated value of the immovable assets was Rs 16.40 crore, the central probe agency said.

This is the third such attachment in the case by the ED. The agency is probing the case after taking cognisance of an FIR filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against Naik, who is said to be based in Malaysia at present.

With the latest order, the total value of assets attached in the case by the ED stands at Rs 50.49 crore.

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