The Hindu – M J Akbar defamation case: Court to record statements on October 31

Court takes cognisance of M J Akbar’s defamation case against Priya Ramani

Nirnimesh Kumar

New Delhi – India, 18 October 2018. A Delhi court on Thursday took cognisance of the criminal defamation complaint filed by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar against senior journalist Priya Ramani.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal at the Patiala House courts took cognisance of the complaint after a brief argument by Geeta Luthra, counsel for Mr. Akbar.

“Heard on the issue of cognisance of the complaint. I take cognisance of the complaint under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code,” Mr. Vishal said in his brief order.

The court later fixed October 31 as the date for recording of pre-summoning evidence of Mr. Akbar and his other witnesses in the case.

Mr. Akbar has resigned due to these allegations and they show the damage caused to his reputation, says his lawyer.

Advocate Geeta Luthra referred to the Mr Akbar’s reputation as a journalist and asked the court to take cognisance of his complaint, saying the allegations have caused irreparable loss to his reputation built over 40 years.

Mr. Akbar was not present in the court. He is likely to appear on the next date, October 31. The court will decide on summoning Ms Ramani after recording the evidence of Mr. Akbar and his other witnesses.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mj-akbar-defamation-case-court-to-record-statements-on-october-31/article25257065.ece

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The Statesman – India rules out talks with Pakistan

The spokesperson said Pakistan’s continued support to terrorism was one of the reasons India cancelled the meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmud Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.

New Delhi – India, 18 October 2018. India on Thursday ruled out talks with Pakistan until the neighbouring country takes credible action against terrorism emanating from its soil.

“Talks and terrorism cannot go together…the onus is on Pakistan to take credible steps and to create conducive conditions by stopping its support to terrorism and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure on its soil,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a media briefing.

He was asked if any ‘Track II’ diplomatic initiative was on for engaging Pakistan.

The spokesperson said Pakistan’s continued support to terrorism was one of the reasons India cancelled the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmud Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.

He said the Indian Army would be in a better position to respond to the Pakistan Army’s statement that it would conduct 10 ‘surgical strikes’ in response to a single such operation by India.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/india-rules-talks-pakistan-1502698159.html

The Hindustan Times – M J Akbar’s resignation exposed ‘chaal – charitra – chehra’ of BJP-ruled Centre, says AAP

Reacting to MJ Akbar’s resignation, AAP spokesperson Dilip Pandey said the action was “not sufficient” and demanded criminal proceedings against him.

New Delhi – India, 17 October 2018. The AAP Wednesday hailed the women who accused Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar of “sexual harassment” and said his resignation “completely exposed” the ‘chaal, charitra and chehra’ of the ruling BJP at the Centre.

Reacting to Akbar’s resignation, AAP spokesperson Dilip Pandey said the action was “not sufficient” and demanded criminal proceedings against him.

“Mere resignation by Akbar is not sufficient considering gravity of allegations against him. Criminal proceedings must be started against him,” Pandey told PTI.

Akbar stepped down today as the Minister of State for External Affairs, following a spate of allegations of sexual harassment during his days as editor of several publications, by several women journalists.

“We salute the courage of the 20 brave women who boldly faced Akbar’s intimidation and forced him to resign as a minister of government of India. His resignation completely exposes the BJP that came to power with the slogan of ‘Chaal, Charita and Chehra’(behaviour, character and personality),” Pandey said.

In a brief statement, Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his 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…,” Akbar said.

Over the last fortnight, about 20 women have come forward to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mj-akbar-s-resignation-exposed-chaal-charitra-and-chehra-of-bjp-ruled-centre-says-aap/story-QrQ5K4l19Ks6DDx6kdSwaK.html

The Asian Age – Politics on forces, judiciary must end, says Manmohan Singh

New Delhi – India, 26 September 2018. At a time when the concept of aggressive nationalism was being debated widely, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that the judiciary and the armed forces should be kept out of “politician’s manipulations and intrigues”.

Delivering the 2nd A B Bardhan memorial lecture in the national capital here, Dr Singh said: “The judiciary needs to arrive at its own enlightened view of the custodianship of the Constitution—irrespective of the irresponsible and selfish politicians who have no qualms injecting communal virus in our body politics.

“The same expectation must also be voiced in regards to our armed forces. Our armed forces are a splendid embodiment of out secular project. Our armed forces have a glorious record of keeping away from the politician’s manipulation and intrigues. It is vitally important that the armed forces remain uncontaminated from any sectarian appeal”.

Dr Singh’s presence at the lecture itself gives a quick window to the vast change Indian polity has seen in the last decade.

It might be recalled that the then CPI boss Bardhan had, by brushing aside some opposition from within his party leadership, played supporting role to the then CPM chief Prakash Karat’s insistence on the Left withdrawing support to the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-regime in August 2008.

In Tuesday speech, Dr Singh mentioned the names of besides Bardhan Left leaders like D Raja and Sitaram Yechury for helping him implement the Common Minimum Programme. He, however, did not mention former CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat, who was behind withdrawal of power to the UPA-I.

http://www.asianage.com/india/politics/260918/politics-on-forces-judiciary-must-end-says-manmohan-singh.html

The Tribune – Culture Ministry to coordinate Guru’s birth anniversary celebrations

Ravi S Singh, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 15 October 2018. The National Implementation Committee, headed by PM Narendra Modi, has tasked the Ministry of Culture to coordinate with various ministries and departments with regard to the forthcoming celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The Centre has decided to commemorate the anniversary with events across globe. The celebrations will kick off next year. As the celebratory chores involve various ministries, the Culture Ministry has been chosen as the nodal authority to coordinate the affairs and inform the implementation committee of the progress during its next meeting.

The committee had met last week under the chairmanship of Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Punjab leaders, including former CM Parkash Singh Badal, who were recently appointed as members of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, had also attended the meeting.

The Punjab Government has submitted a proposal to the Centre regarding projects and cultural activities worth Rs 2,145 crore ( Rs 1,050 core for institutional and infrastructure development and Rs 1,095 crore for propagating ideals of Guru Nanak) for the anniversary celebrations. The projects concern a cross-section of ministries and departments.

During the meeting, the House was informed about the state’s proposals. The Culture Ministry will coordinate with ministries and authorities concerned to study the feasibility of the state’s proposals, besides considering other suggestions.

Badal had suggested that the city of Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district, to which the guru was associated, should be the focus of celebrations. He also suggested that the city be painted white.

The agenda of the meeting included upcoming centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which will be commemorated by the Centre.

Besides, the committee has directed the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust to hold a meeting soon with regard to preparations for the centenary.

Why am I not at all happy with these plans ?
Guru Nanak being ‘nationalised’ by the Modi sarkar …..

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/culture-ministry-to-coordinate-guru-s-birth-anniv-celebrations/668808.html

NDTV – Probe Into Sajjan Kumar’s role in 1984 riots “tainted”, High Court told

New Delhi – India, 16 October 2018. The CBI on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the police investigation into the alleged role of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case was “tainted” as it had tried to favour the politician.

The submission by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was made before a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel which was also told by the agency that the police kept in “hibernation” the FIRs lodged during the riots in the hope that the affected people will reconcile and settle the matter.

Senior advocate R S Cheema, the special public prosecutor for CBI, said the probe by Delhi Police was “tainted” as “FIRs were kept in hibernation, hoping that people would reconcile and settle the matter”.

He made the submissions before the bench as he concluded arguments on behalf of the agency.

Retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, Girdhari Lal and two others were held guilty in a case relating to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, during the riots that followed the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Sajjan Kumar was acquitted in the case by the trial court against which both the CBI and the victims’ family have appealed in the high court. The trial court had awarded life term to Bhagmal, Khokhar and Girdhari Lal and a three-year jail term to two others, former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.

They also moved the high court challenging their conviction and the sentence awarded by the trial court in May 2013.

Senior advocate H S Phoolka, appearing for the victims, also concluded his arguments in which he has contended that Kumar has always been in a “position of influence” which he has “enjoyed with impunity” to “thwart the investigation”.

In his written submissions placed before the court, Mr Phoolka has claimed that there were some charge sheets which initially named Kumar as an accused in some 1984 riots cases, but the police never filed the charge sheet and kept them in its files.

In one case where a victim/complainant had named Kumar, the police dropped his name and filed the charge sheet against the other accused, the senior advocate has said.

Mr Phoolka said that another example of Kumar’s influence was seen in how the government rejected a recommendation made in 2005 by a commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge G T Nanavati, to register an FIR against the Congress leader in connection with 1984 riots.

“Given the influence of the accused and the impunity enjoyed by him, witnesses or victims could not be reasonably expected to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones by on their own approaching the authorities till they were assured of their safety,” the lawyer said.

Arguments on behalf of Kumar would commence from October 22.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/1984-anti-sikh-riots-probe-into-sajjan-kumars-role-tainted-delhi-high-court-told-1933155

The Hindu – For a fair probe, M J Akbar should have stepped down: journalist organisations

“We have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media,” they say in a joint statement.

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 15 October 2018. Journalist organisations have expressed disappointment over Union Minister M J Akbar’s statement in response to allegations of sexual harassment levelled by many women journalists. They said his response should have reflected the responsibility that his office bestowed on him.

A joint statement, signed by the Indian Women Press Corps, the Press Club of India, the Press Association and the South Asian Women in Media, said that sexual harassment at workplace was a worrisome reality and the organisations were deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media.

“Mr Akbar is a senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him.

There can be no dispute about the need for an impartial probe into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants, and this acquires particular significance if one of the accused is an influential minister in the government,” the statement said.

In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, Mr Akbar should have resigned till the inquiry is completed, the statement said. “We are disappointed that Mr. Akbar did not choose to take this step instead of threatening the complainants with legal action”.

Here is the joint statement issued by journalist organisations:

We the undersigned journalist organisations have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media. We recognize that sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment.

We are also deeply disappointed at the statement issued by Mr M J Akbar, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, wherein he has threatened legal action against all those who have alleged they were harassed by him. Mr Akbar is a senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him.

There can be no dispute about the need for an impartial probe into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants, and this acquires particular significance if one of the accused is an influential minister in the government.

In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it would only be appropriate that the minister step down from his post till such time as the inquiry is completed. We are disappointed that Mr Akbar did not choose to take this step instead of threatening the complainants with legal action.

An impartial probe should be conducted into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants more so as the accused party is an influential minister in the present government.

We also feel that in the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it is only proper and appropriate that the minister step down from his post till as such time the probe is completed.

Sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive phenomenon. It has continued with impunity despite the enactment of a tough law to prevent, prohibit and redress it. The inability of women to speak out about such harassment needs serious introspection and redress.

We hope that employers in media organisations and the government will look into this with the seriousness it deserves and not treat the incidents as motivated complaints.

Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, Press Association, South Asian Women in Media

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/for-a-fair-probe-mj-akbar-should-have-stepped-down-journalist-organisations/article25228446.ece

The New Indian Express – Amarinder Singh’s government didn’t punish culprits of Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege – Arvind Kejriwal

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Kejriwal alleged that it is unfortunate that Captain Amarinder Singh government has badly failed to punish the culprits of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

New Delhi – India, 14 October 2018. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday accused the Punjab Government led by Capt Amarinder Singh of having failed to punish the murderers of two people who died in a firing at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in the state during protest against sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Kejriwal said, “On third death anniversary of Behbal Kalan victims Krishan Bhagwan Singh and Gurjit Singh, I offer condolences to their families.

Highly unfortunate that Captain Amarinder Singh government has badly failed to punish the culprits of sacrilege of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the murderers of two innocents.”

On this occasion, two Punjab ministers Sukhwinder Singh Sarkaria and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa along with two Congress MLAs Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon from Faridkot and Harminder Singh from Tarn Taran on Sunday visited the families of victims who died in the firing incident.

In Punjab’s Faridkot, a dharna was staged to commemorate the third anniversary of the death of the victims.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/oct/14/amarinder-government-didnt-punish-culprits-of-guru-granth-sahib-sacrilege-arvind-kejriwal-1885458.htm

The Tribune – Akalis ask Modi to seek UK apology on Jallianwala Bhag massacre

New Delhi – India, 13 October 2018. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask the British Government to tender an apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

In a letter to Modi, party’s senior vice-president Prem Singh Chandumajra said, “I request you on my behalf and on behalf of the people of Punjab to write to the UK Government on this issue and build pressure to take the matter to its logical conclusion.”

He said a campaign had been going on for the past several years in India and the UK in this regard.

“It is high time the Government of India seeks a formal apology from Britain for the heinous crime,” Chandumajra added.

The Centre has already decided to observe the massacre’s centenary at the national level next year.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/akalis-ask-modi-to-seek-uk-apology-on-jallianwala/667848.html

The Hindu – #MeToo: M J Akbar threatens to take legal action against journalists who accused him of harassment

Special Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 14 October 2018. Akbar attributed the allegations to motives other than the #Metoo movement’s aims to out sexual predators.

Union minister M J Akbar on Sunday threatened to take legal action against several women journalists who had accused him of sexual harassment at two newspapers where he had been editor.

There was no suggestion in Mr Akbar’s statement that he would resign from the Union Council of Ministers.

In a detailed statement to ANI, Mr Akbar, who returned this morning from Africa where he had been leading an Indian delegation on various events, said that “accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections.

Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action”.

Mr. Akbar attributed the allegations to motives other than the #Metoo movement’s aims of outing sexual predators. “Why has this storm risen a few months before the general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill,” he said.

“Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. I will be taking appropriate legal action,” he added. Referring to journalist Priya Ramani, who had first spoken about Mr. Akbar’s alleged behaviour with female colleagues, he said, “Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article.

She did not, however name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a tweet, ‘never named him because he didn’t do anything’.”

“If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story? There is no story, but a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total unsubstantiated hearsay, others confirm on the record that I didn’t do anything,” he added.

Mr Akbar’s statement seems to suggest that calls for his resignation were not going to be entertained by the Union government. He is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj later in the evening.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/metoo-mj-akbar-threatens-to-take-legal-action-against-women-journalists/article25220032.ece?homepage=true