#MeToo: Priya Ramani acquitted of defaming M J Akbar | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: A person’s right to reputation can’t be protected at the cost of dignity, a Delhi court said on Wednesday, while acquitting journalist Priya Ramani of the charge of defaming former Union minister MJ Akbar whom she had accused of sexual harassment.
In a verdict emerging out of litigation relating to the Me Too movement, the court said a “woman can’t be punished for raising (her) voice against sex abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Constitution.”
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate R K Pandey accepted Ramani’s statement that Akbar is “not a man of stellar reputation” while believing her testimony of being sexually harassed by him in a hotel in 1993, a meeting Akbar claimed had never occurred.
The woman has a right to put her grievance on any platform of her choice and even after decades. It is shameful that the incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in the country where mega epics such as ‘Mahabarata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were written around the theme of respect for women,” observed additional chief metropolitan magistrate R K Pandey, dismissing the criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar, who had also questioned the delay by Ramani in levelling these allegations.
The court said it can’t be ignored that most of the time, the offence of sexual harassment and sexual abuse is committed behind closed doors or privately.
Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the global “MeToo” movement in 2018 following which Akbar filed the complaint on October 15, 2018, accusing her of defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was a journalist. He resigned as Union minister on October 17, 2018, and denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward against him. Ramani said there was a lot of anxiety, stress and fear as a powerful man took her to court. “My reputation is much better than his and everybody believed me,” she said, adding that she felt vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken out against sexual harassment at workplace. “It was me, the victim, who had to stand up in the court as an accused. I thank everyone who stood by me, especially my witness Ghazala Wahab,” she said. In its 91-page verdict, the court noted that “despite how well-respected some persons are in society, they in their personal lives could show extreme cruelty to females.” Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani’s allegations were fictitious and cost him his stellar reputation but Ramani countered these claims, arguing she made allegations in good faith and public interest, and for public good.

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