A Metropolitan Magistrate's Court at Mumbai exempted actor Kangana Ranaut from appearance as a "last chance" in the defamation case filed by lyricist Javed Akhtar after her lawyer said she is unwell and displaying Covid symptoms.
Metropolitan Magistrate RR Khan said he would issue a warrant against her if she failed to appear on the next date on September 20.
The court's comments were in response to Akhtar's lawyer, Jay Bharadwaj's submissions that Ranaut's claims of being unwell were an orchestrated tactic to delay the proceedings and that she has refused to honour the summons issued to her since February.
Earlier, Ranaut's counsel claimed that the actor was not keeping well. She had been travelling for her film's promotion and had developed covid symptoms. Her counsel submitted a medical certificate as well.
The court then adjourned the matter but warned against action if she continued the absenteeism.
In a private complaint, Akhtar has accused Ranaut of damaging his "immaculate reputation" by dragging his name in actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death in her interview with Republic TV Anchor Arnab Goswami, on July 19, 2020.
Following a police investigation, on February 1 the Metropolitan Magistrate issued process against Ranaut under Section 204 of CrPC and directed her to appear on March 1 to record her plea.
On July 27, the MM exempted Ranaut from appearance in the case as a 'last chance'. The court directed her lawyer to ensure she is present on the next date, failing which Akhtar could apply for the issuance of a warrant against her.
Last week the Bombay High Court dismissed Ranaut's plea to quash the proceedings before the Andheri court observing that a mere procedural irregularity while taking cognisance of the complainant cannot be a ground to grant her relief.
The HC observed that the Metropolitan Magistrate had "applied his mind" and "considered all aspects" before issuing process and summoning Ranaut to court for the alleged offence of defamation.
Akhtar filed a complaint against Ranaut for offences punishable under Sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code in the MM Court, at Andheri, in November 2020.
Akhtar said he is a self-made man, who reached Mumbai on October 4, 1964, with Rs 27, two pairs of clothes and a few books. He was 19 then. He accused Ranaut of defaming him in her interview on Republic TV.
In the session that lasted 57-minutes, Akhtar claims that Ranaut is seen giving her opinion on the circumstances surrounding Rajput's death without any direct personal knowledge.
"…needlessly dragging the complainant's name into an unconnected, sensitive matter is tantamount to extending veiled threats to the complainant, who is an extremely respectable member of the film fraternity," the plea said.
Case Title: Kangana Ranaut v. The State of Maharashtra