New Delhi, February 17
Saying that a woman has the right to voice her grievance before any platform even after decades, a Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar over allegations of sexual harassment.
Delivering the judgment being hailed as a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey said: “A woman cannot be punished for raising voice against sexual abuse on the pretext of defamation as the right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right to life, dignity and equality.”
“Most women who suffer abuse do not speak up because of social stigma…The Indian women require freedom and equality,” the court noted.
Tough, challenging trial
The case was very difficult and challenging in respect of the defences taken. Probably the most important case of my life. — Rebecca John, Priya Ramani’s lawyer
Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018. Akbar filed a case against her on October 15, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.
Vindication and hope was the sum of all reactions to the historic judgment. As Akbar’s claim of “damage to stellar reputation” crumbled under the weight of Ramani and journalist Ghazala Wahab’s shocking accounts of sexual and psychological assault at the hands of the former editor of Asian Age, a sense of victory pervaded every heart that stood in solidarity with the duo.
“I feel vindicated and hope this verdict would help more and more women speak up besides discouraging men in positions of power from filing false cases against those who share their truth,” said a beaming Ramani, who would leave her 10-year-old daughter in Bengaluru to attend 53 hearings in Delhi for more than 28 months.
Her lawyer Rebecca John, best known for representing DMK’s Kanimozhi in the 2G spectrum case, described the Akbar-Ramani case as “probably the most important case” of her life. — TNS