Journalist Priya Ramani Acquitted In Defamation Case Filed By MJ Akbar

MJ Akbar had filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani in October 2018 for allegedly defaming by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Journalist Priya Ramani was acquitted by a Delhi court in the criminal defamation case filed by former union minister MJ Akbar. The court accepted the possibility of defence of the Ms Ramani that she disclosed her truth on the basis of her own testimony. The court also accepted that Mr Akbar was not a man of stellar reputation, Bar and Bench reported.

The court not only took into consideration the systematic abuse at the workplace but also noted the absence of Vishaka guidelines at the time of the incident.

Society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims, the court stressed.

Saying that the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right to dignity, the court noted that woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades.

Referring to ancient texts and Mahabharata, the court highlighted that Indian women only require equality.

Concluding that the case of the complainant is not proved, the court acquitted Priya Ramani in the case.

What is the background of this case?

Journalist Priya Ramani had raised allegations of sexual harassment against the former minister in the BJP government. On February 1, after both the parties completed their arguments, the court had reserved its judgement. Ravindra Kumar, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, had deferred the matter till February 10. On February 10, the court again deferred the judgement till February 17 citing that both, Priya Ramani and MJ Akbar filed their written submissions late and the verdict was not complete.

The case is filed in regards to the allegations of sexual harassment against former Union Minister MJ Akbar by Priya Ramani in wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018. However, the minister in the union government had filed criminal defamation against Priya Ramani in October 2018 for allegedly defaming by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.

In October 2018, Mr Akbar had resigned as the Union Minister and denied all allegations levelled by all the women against him during the #MeToo movement. More than 20 women had levelled charges of sexual misconduct by Akbar while they were working as journalists under him. terming the allegations as false, fabricated and deeply distressing, he had said that he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

False, defamatory statement by journalist Priya Ramani against him alleging sexual misconduct led other persons and the media repeating them, Mr Akbar had told the court during the hearing in January.

“False, defamatory statement by her lead to repeat by other persons and media. She started this. That’s why immediately after my coming back I (Akbar) made the complaint against her. Due process was available to women and that Ramani had no desire to go for due process”, the former minister had told the court through his lawyer Geeta Luthra.

“There was no interest in due process. It is much easier to malign someone, defame someone on social media. It is impermissible”, MJ Akbar’s lawyer had added.

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