A Delhi Court has acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in connection to the criminal defamation complaint registered by former Union Minister MJ Akbar over the sexual harassment charges levelled against him during 2018 #MeToo movement.
“This battle has been about women, hasn’t been about me. I just happen to represent all the women who spoke up, the women who spoke up before me and the ones who spoke up after me. I thought this was a very apt judgement. My victory will definitely encourage more women to speak up and it will also make powerful men think twice before they take victims to court. Don’t forget that I was the accused in this case. I was accused just for speaking up,” Ramani told reporters.
MJ Akbar had sued Priya Ramani in October 2018 after she took to Twitter about his sexual misconduct during the #MeToo movement. Several other women came out with similar allegations against MJ Akbar. Following the backlash, he resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs in October 2018.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey announced the acquittal while observing that he accepts the possibility of defence of the accused that she disclosed her truth on the basis of her own testimony and that of defence witness, Niloufer Venkatraman.
“There was systemic abuse at workplace and said that there is social stigma attached allegations of sexual harassment. Even a man of social status can be a sexual harasser. Right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of right to dignity,” the court said.
The court took note of the systematic sexual abuse at the workplace and highlighted that the Vishaka Guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace put forth by the Supreme Court in 1997 were not effect during the incident.
The order was reserved on February 1 and was slated to be pronounced on February 10. But it was later adjourned till today citing the reason that he had received few written submissions from the parties late.
Ramani, in her tweets, alleged that she was sexually harassed by MJ Akbar in 1993 when she was called to the Oberoi hotel for a job interview.