A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted former journalist Priya Ramani in former Union Minister MJ Akbar's defamation case against her for allegations of sexual harassment, and said a woman has a right to voice her grievance even after decades.
“You are acquitted from the present case”, the court told Ramani.
In its verdict, the Delhi court observed that even a man of high 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 the right to dignity.”
The court further said, “Most women do not talk about the sexual harassment due to stigma that surrounds it. Sometimes even the victim does not understand as to what is happening. Despite going through extreme cruelty, they chose to stay quiet."
Speaking to reporters after the acquittal, Priya Ramani said, "It feels amazing, truly does. I feel vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken out against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has got the attention it deserves."
Senior advocate Rebecca John, who appeared for Priya, described the case as the most important in her lifetime.
In 2017, Priya had first made the allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor in an article in Vogue India. She revealed the identity of the editor as then Union Minister MJ Akbar during the #MeToo movement in October 2018. Afterwards, several other women also came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct.
According to Priya, Akbar sexually harassed her when she was called to a Mumbai hotel for a job interview in December 1993.
The allegations against Akbar had forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018. Before resigning, he had filed a complaint against Ramani on October 15 for allegedly defaming him.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)