Journalist Priya Ramani was acquitted by a Delhi court Wednesday afternoon over a defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar, whom she had accused of sexual misconduct in 2018. A year earlier Vogue India published an article by Ms Ramani, in which she described an incident with a “former boss” and a “sexual predator”. In October 2018, Ms Ramani named MJ Akbar – then a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government – in a tweet. A week later MJ Akbar filed the criminal defamation case and resigned as minister two days later. The trial began in January 2019, and today’s verdict was read out by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey.
Here are five big observations from today’s judgment:
- Women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse. The Constitution allows women to put forward her grievances before any forum and at any time.
- Priya Ramani’s disclosure was in the interest of anti sexual harassment at workplace. (The court also) takes (into) consideration (instances) of systematic abuse at the workplace.
- Society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims. Sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence (and) the social stigma attached with the allegations.
Even a man of (high) social status (standing) can be a sexual harasser.
Right of reputation (referring to MJ Akbar’s claim that Ms Ramani’s allegations had tarnished his image) cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity.