Judge Hearing MJ Akbar-Priya Ramani Case Transferred

The final arguments in the MJ Akbar-Priya Ramani case will have to be made all over again.

2 min read
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Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja, who had been hearing the criminal defamation case by ex-Union Minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani, has been transferred out of the Rouse Avenue Court, according to a Delhi High Court order. He will now be serving as a senior civil court judge at the district court of North East Delhi.

This implication of this development is that the final arguments in the MJ Akbar-Priya Ramani case will have to be made all over again.

The order naming Vishal Pahuja as one of the transferees reads:

“Hon’ble the Chief Justice and Judges of this Court have been pleased to make the . following postings/transfers in the Delhi Judicial Service with immediate effect (sic).”   

The defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani was brought on by MJ Akbar in 2018. The case has been underway since then.

Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, had already concluded her final arguments in the case, on 19 September. Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for ex-Union Minister MJ Akbar had on Tuesday, 10 November, commenced her rejoinder arguments in the case before ACMM Vishal Pahuja.

When the Case Was Almost Transferred

Previously on 13 October, Vishal Pahuja had cited the Supreme Court’s directions and said that only the matters filed against MPs and MLAs can be listed before the Rouse Avenue Court, where the defamation case brought on by MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani was being heard so far. The matter had then gone to District and Sessions Court Judge Sujata Kohli for appropriate orders.

However, on 22 October, the district and sessions court had confirmed that the criminal defamation case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani will continue before the Rouse Avenue Court.

About the Case

In a 2017 article about sexual predators at workplace, written for the Vogue, Ramani had described her own ordeal of having been sexually harassed by a former boss. A year later, in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, Ramani had alleged on social media that the former boss had, in fact, been Akbar.

Akbar had subsequently filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, asserting that Ramani’s allegations were false and that the article had cost him his “stellar reputation”, even though only the initial part of the article, and not the article, in it’s entirety, had been about Akbar.

In her final arguments, Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, had pointed out that Ramani had pleaded “truth” as her defence, “made in good faith, in public interest, and for public good”, and had gone on to cite exceptions 1 and 9 interlinked with exception 3 to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.

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