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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.

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Kejriwal to give ex-gratia of Rs 1cr to kin of slain BSF jawan

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kejriwal

On September 21, Kejriwal had also visited the native village of Singh, who was brutally killed by Pakistani troopers along the International Border (IB) near Jammu.

 

New Delhi| Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will go to Sonipat on Wednesday to give ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the family of BSF jawan Narender Singh, who was brutally killed by Pakistan forces on the IB near Jammu in September.

It came days after the AAP government approved a proposal to amend a rule on giving ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the kin of slain security personnel to include those who have settled in the national capital after joining service.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Haryana convener Naveen Jaihind said, “The chief minister will go to Sonipat on November 21 to give ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the kin of slain BSF jawan Narender Singh.”

On September 21, Kejriwal had also visited the native village of Singh, who was brutally killed by Pakistani troopers along the International Border (IB) near Jammu.

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Grenade used in Amritsar blast similar to ones manufactured by Pak Ordinance factory: Amarinder Singh

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Amarinder Singh

Amarinder Singh has announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for anyone providing information on those involved in the blast that left three persons dead.

 

Amritsar| Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday said initial investigations suggested the grenade used in the attack on Nirankari Bhavan was similar to the ones manufactured by the Pakistani Army Ordinance factory.

Three persons including a preacher were killed and over 20 injured when two-motorcycle borne men threw a grenade on a religious congregation on Sunday.

The attack took place inside the Nirankari Bhavan’s prayer hall at Adliwal village near Amritsar’s Rajasansi, an incident which the police are treating as a ‘terrorist act’.

“The grenade attack at the Nirankari Bhavan seemed to carry Pakistan’s signature, with initial investigations indicating that the grenade used was similar to the ones being manufactured by the Pakistani Army Ordinance factory,” Amarinder said.

The chief minister has announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for anyone providing information on those involved in the blast that left three persons dead, officials said.

Information can be provided on the Punjab Police helpline – 181, they said, adding the identity of the informer will be kept a secret.

Amarinder flew in from Chandigarh along with his cabinet colleague and Amritsar MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu and PPCC president Sunil Jakhar to take stock of the situation.

He said the police had recovered similar HG-84 grenades from a terror module busted by the Punjab Police last month, indicating a high probability of the involvement of inimical forces from across the border.

Prima facie, this appears to be an act of terror by separatist forces, organised with the involvement of ISI-backed Khalistani or Kashmiri terrorist groups, said the chief minister, adding his government had taken serious note of the incident and was aggressively pursuing all angles of investigation. The culprits would soon be arrested, Amarinder promised, while talking to media after visiting the site of the attack.

He said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was also helping in the investigations and certain leads had been unearthed.

An NIA team visited the blast site Sunday night along with their investigators and explosive experts and held discussions with the top brass of the Punjab Police.

Responding to a query, Amarinder said the attack could not be equated with the Nirankari conflict in 1978 as that was a religious matter and the Adliwal incident was purely a case of terrorism.

Violence between the Sant Nirankari Mission and traditional Sikhs on April 13, 1978, at Amritsar had left 13 dead, and sparked the subsequent wave of terrorism in the state.

Sunday’s incident had no religious overtones, as per initial investigations, said the chief minister.

In response to a question, the CM Amarinder Singh said the state was already on high alert, with strict checking going on around landmark buildings and other vital public installations and infrastructure.

Police nakas had been set up in all districts and patrol parties were moving around in search of suspicious objects/activities, he said.

The chief minister Amarinder Singh said the district and police administration has been directed to explore the possibility of installing CCTV cameras at all strategic points.

Amarinder, who visited the hospital to meet the injured, announced jobs for the kin of those killed in the attack and Rs 50,000 each to the injured, in addition to their free treatment.

Accompanied by top police and administrative officials, the chief minister Amarinder Singh went around the site of the attack and examined the spot from where the grenade was lobbed by two men.

The men, armed with a pistol and their faces covered, had forced their way into the Bhawan after taking the civil guards hostage at gunpoint. They had lobbed the grenade into the prayer room, killing three and injuring 20.

Earlier, on his arrival, the chief minister was briefed by Home Secretary NS Kalsi, DGP Suresh Arora, IG Amritsar Surinder Pal Parmar and DC Amritsar Kamaldeep Sangh, who updated him on the progress of the investigations so far.

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CBI vs CBI: Alok Verma submits his response to CVC findings on corruption charges against him

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Alok Verma had approached the apex court challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of his duties and sending him on leave following his feud with Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana.

 

New Delhi| CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma filed his response Monday to the findings of the CVC’s preliminary probe report on corruption charges against him in a sealed cover in the Supreme Court after he was told to do so “as quickly as possible” as the scheduled Tuesday hearing on his plea would not be deferred.

Verma, who was asked to file his response to the Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC) report in a sealed cover by Monday 1 pm, sought some more time from the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi for filing his reply with the secretary general of the apex court around 12.40 pm.

“We are not shifting the date (of hearing). You file it as quickly as possible as we will have to read it,” the bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph told Verma’s lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

“Even though we sought a little time from the court, Verma’s reply was filed with the secretary general at 1 pm,” the lawyer told PTI.

Verma’s reply will deal with the CVC report, which was categorised into four parts by the apex court as “complimentary, very complimentary, not so complimentary and very uncomplimentary” for the CBI director.

The apex court, on November 16, had directed Verma, Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who were also supplied with the confidential report of the CVC, to maintain secrecy, saying it was needed to ensure people’s faith in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as an institution.

Earlier, the apex court had said the CVC had made some “very uncomplimentary” findings in its probe on corruption allegations against Verma and wanted further investigations into some of the charges which required more time, adding that there were also some “very complimentary” conclusions.

Summing up the “exhaustive” confidential report of the CVC given to it, the court ordered that a copy of it, along with the annexure, be given to Verma in a sealed cover.

Alok Verma had approached the apex court challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of his duties and sending him on leave following his feud with Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana, who has levelled corruption allegations against him.

Asthana has also been divested of his duties and sent on leave.

Pursuant to the top court’s order, the CVC’s inquiry against Alok Verma was conducted under the supervision of former apex court judge Justice A K Patnaik and the report was filed in the court on November 12.

Besides Verma’s plea, the court is also seized of a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by a special investigation team against CBI officers.

Besides, it had barred the interim CBI chief, Nageshwar Rao, from taking any major policy decision, but granted him the liberty to perform the routine tasks that were essential to keep the CBI functional.

On November 4, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had also moved the top court contending that divesting Alok Verma of his statutory powers and functions was “completely illegal and arbitrary”.

In an interlocutory application filed in the pending petition, Kharge, who is part of the three-member selection committee that appoints the CBI director, said “as a concerned stakeholder”, he brought to the attention of the court the “brazen and illegal actions” of the political executive in interfering with the independent functioning of the CBI director.

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