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Journalist Priya Ramani acquitted by Delhi Court in defamation case filed by MJ Akbar

Priya Ramani
Image Courtesy: BBC

Journalist Priya Ramani is acquitted in the defamation case filed by the Former Union Minister MJ Akbar which could not be proved. Ramani had previously accused Akbar of sexual misconduct. “The Indian constitution allows women to put forward her grievances before any forum and at any time,” the judge said, considering the lack of voices to raise sexual harassment complaints.

Delhi court said, “Women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse,” while stating that the “right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity”.The court highlighted that “even a man of (high) social status (standing) can be a sexual harasser.”

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey asserted, “It can’t be ignored that most times sexual harassment is committed behind closed doors. Most of the women who suffer abuse can’t often speak up due to stigma and attack on their character.”

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Following the case filed by MJ Akbar, Priya Ramani told the media that she feels “vindicated” on behalf of the women who spoke out against sexual harassment in the workplace. “Sexual harassment has got the attention it deserves despite the fact that it is me, being the victim who had to stand up in court as the accused,” she said. “I hope it will discourage powerful men from filing false cases against women who share their truths,” she said.

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Ramani accused the former Union Minister of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement of 2018. She tweeted a newspaper article she wrote last year where he accused a “former boss” of being a “sexual predator”. During her court session, she said that the incident took place 20 years ago during a job interview. MJ Akbar was the head of Asian Age at that time and allegedly called Ms Ramani to his hotel room and behaved inappropriately, she told the court.

Mr Akbar took it to the court on October 15, 2018, filing a defamation suit against Priya Ramani. In the 41-page suit, Akbar alleged that Priya Ramani’s tweets and newspaper article had spoiled the reputation and goodwill he built over 40 years and he had to step down from PM Modi’s government. He resigned from his position of minister in Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet two days after filing the suit.

According to Priya Ramani, the lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate her and called it an attempt to “create a chilling effect among all the women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar”.

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