#MeToo movement: Journalist Priya Ramani acquitted in criminal defamation case by MJ Akbar

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Stressing that women cannot be punished for raising their voice against sexual ­abuse, a Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation suit filed by former Union minister M J Akbar contesting her allegations of sexual harassment by him in the past. 

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey said, “The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Indian Constitution under Article 21 and right of equality before law and equal protection of law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.”  

The court accepted Ramani’s  contention that Akbar wasn’t a man of stellar reputation. In its 91-page verdict, the court said, “It cannot be ignored that most of the time, the offence of sexual­ harassment and sexual abuse (was) committed in the close doors or privately. Sometimes the victims herself does not understand what is happening to them or what is happening to them is wrong. Despite how well respected some persons are in the society, they in their personal lives, could show extreme cruelty to females.”   

The court took note of the systematic abuse at the workplace due to lack of grievance redressal mechanisms at the time Priya Ramani and witness Ghazala Wahab were allegedly sexually harassed. “Time has come for society to understand sexual abuse and harassment and its implications on the victim,” the court said, adding most women do not speak about it because of social stigma.  

“This judgment is a validation of the stand taken by us and all women during the #Metoo campaign,” Ramani’s lawyer Rebecca John later said. Ramani had in 2018 made allegations of sexual harassment against Akbar in wake of the #MeToo movement.