A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar on the her allegations against him for sexual harassment during a work interview in December 1993.She had made the allegation against Akbar during ‘Me Too’ campaign in 2018. The court in its judgement stressed that the right to protect one’s reputation cannot be at the cost of a woman’s right to dignity. The court in its verdict also said that a woman has all the right to put grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey in his verdict read out that ‘most of the women who suffer abuse do not speak up about it or against it for simple reason “The Shame” or the social stigma attached with the sexual harassment and abuse. The sexual abuse, if committed against woman, takes away her dignity and her self-confidence. The attack on the character of sex abuser or offender by sex abuse victim is the reaction of self-defence after the mental trauma suffered by the victim regarding the shame attached with the crime committed against her. The woman cannot be punished for raising voice against the sex abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Indian Constitution under article 21 and right of equality before law and equal protection of law as guaranteed under article 14 of the Constitution.
The court also added that it is shameful that crimes against women are taking place in a country where mega epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana were written about respecting women, while reading out 91-page verdict.
Pandey dismissed the complaint stating that no charges were proved against Ramani. Akbar had filed the complaint of defamation in October 2018 against Ramani for her allegations. He had to resign after the allegation as Union Minister in October 2018.
Ramani after the verdict said that this decision would encourage other women to speak up.