The 69-year-old lyricist was scheduled to participate in a session titled "Urdu Mein Hindustan" in conversation with popular Hindi poet Ashok Vajpayi.
In Akhtar's absence, the session was taken over by lyricist Prasoon Joshi and singer Vidya Shah.
Akhtar, has been a regular visitor at the recent editions of the festival. During last year's edition of the At the last edition a quarrel over religion also broke out between Akhtar and Dalit activist and writer Kancha Illaiah.
Festival organisers were unable to confirm whether Akhtar would participate in a session titled "Khalnayak" in conversation with Kishwar Desai scheduled for tomorrow.
Journalist Barkha Dutt, who was slated to take part in a session titled "Dispensable Nation: Afghanistan after the US withdrawal" also did not attend today.
The session featured Barnett Rubin, Senior Advisor to the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Mark Mazetti, journalist Ben Andersn and Festival Director William Dalrymple.
"Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington was also slated to be part of this session, but he had to fly back because of a death in his family," Dalrymple said.
Barkha is also slated to be in conversation with award winning journalist and filmmaker, Adrian Levy tomorrow.
Union Minister Shashi Tharoor also skipped the annual five-day festival, which concludes tomorrow due to his wife's death.