MJ Akbar had filed the suit against Ramani on October 15, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was a journalist.
Noting that a woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades, the Delhi court Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed by former union minister M J Akbar.
“You are acquitted from the present case”, the court told Ramani.
Reading out the order, the court said that there are social stigma attached with the allegations. Society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims, and added, “A woman has right to put her grievance even after decades”.
The court further informed the parties that an appeal can be filed in case of any grievance and ask Ramani to furnish a bail bond in case an appeal is preferred.
In its verdict, the Delhi court observed that even a man of social status can be a sexual harasser. “Sexual abuse takes away dignity and self confidence,” it said, and asserted that the “right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of right to dignity.”
The court also referred to ancients texts and Mahabharata while reading out its order.
The court recorded that Ramani’s disclosure was in the interest of helping those facing sexual harassment at workplace.
The Delhi court, hearing the criminal defamation case, however, rejected the defense of accused regarding particular portion in Vogue article. It contented that the allegations were malicious and defamatory publication by design.
Reading out the order, the court stated that MJ Akbar was defamed after the publication of tweets.
The court further stated that Akbar is a man of reputation and that the content is not disputed by Priya Ramani.
The court noted the submissions made by Priya Ramani and reiterated the defense taken by her.
It is further contended that the tweet on resignation was untrue. “On perusal and joint reading.., the court is of the view that content are defamatory,” the court said.
The editor-turned-politician had filed the suit against Ramani on October 15, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was a journalist. With several other women making similar allegations against him, Akbar resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs in 2018.
On February 1, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar had reserved the judgment after Akbar as well as Ramani completed their arguments. The court had earlier deferred pronouncing the verdict on February 10.
Ramani, the first woman to accuse MJ Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign, in an article in 2017 and a tweet in 2018, had alleged that the former Minister of State for External Affairs had sexually harassed her during a job interview in 1994.
Over 20 women accused Akbar of sexual harassment during the time they had worked with him as journalists. He has, however, termed the allegations “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” while stressing that he was taking appropriate legal action against them.
Akbar, last month, had told a Delhi court through his lawyers that Ramani “deliberately, intentionally, maliciously” destroyed evidence by deleting the Twitter account.
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