Union minister MJ Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani for accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Akbar, the minister of state for external affairs, has accused Ramani of “making false and defamatory statements” against him through an article and series of tweets and has sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.
“The accused has intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious, imputations to harm the reputation of the complainant,” said the lawsuit.
Reacting to the defamation case,
Ramani said she was "deeply disappointed" that the Minister sought to dismiss the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy and by filing the case he was seeking to "silence" the women complainants through intimidation and harassment.
"Needless to say, I am ready to fight allegations of defamation laid against me as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence," she said in a statement.
On Sunday, Akbar described multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him as "wild and baseless" and added he plans to take legal action against the women who have made the accusations.
“Ramani made defamatory statements accusing Akbar of sexual misconduct relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago … simultaneously admits that the complainant (Akbar) has not done anything to her,” Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co stated in an affidavit filed at the High Court in Delhi on Monday.
The lawsuit by Akbar, 67, follow widespread calls on social media for his resignation after at least 10 women came forward to accuse him of harassment in recent days.
"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice," said
Akbar in a one-page statement given ANI in India on Sunday.
The veteran editor, who founded several publications, has been accused of a range of inappropriate behaviour by female journalists who previously worked as his subordinates.
Many journalists have called for Akbar to be sacked and have threatened to boycott events he is attending until he resigns.
The government has remained silent on the issue for days, while Akbar was attending a conference in Nigeria. He returned to New Delhi on Sunday morning to find a crowd of reporters waiting outside his residence.
"Accusations without evidence have become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned (from abroad), my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action," he had said.
(With inputs from Reuters)