The story of struggle, survival and justice. In a ‘historic’ verdict, a Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed by former union minister MJ Akbar. The trial began in January 2019, and the landmark verdict was hailed as a significant one for women and #MeToo movement in India.
On October 15, 2018, MJ Akbar had filed the suit against Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was a journalist. The court in the case recognized the stigma in the society regarding the allegations. The court also stated that society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on the victim, and added, “A woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades.”
The court further stated that Akbar is a man of reputation, a fact which was not disputed by Ramani. With this judgment, history has been made. The immense courage shown by the ones who spoke, the commitment of lawyers and women’s movement mark this moment.
The fact that women have been mistreated, abused and made deprived of their rights over time and time again can not be disputed. From Bhanwari Devi case, Nirbhaya case to the Hathras and Unnao case. India has seen it all. #MeToo across the country forever changed the way workplaces for women are conceptualized. And this new judgement gives all of us a little hope where such misconducts are been taken into cognizance.
The court also added, “Women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse,” adding to that “right of reputation” a reference to MJ Akbar’s suit “cannot be protected at the cost of the right to dignity”.
“The Indian constitution allows women to put forward her grievances before any forum and at any time,” the judge said, taking cognizance of the lack of mechanisms to raise sexual harassment complaints. Pointing out that “even a man of (high) social status (standing) can be a sexual harasser,” Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey said, “It can’t be ignored that most times sexual harassment is committed behind closed doors”.
It takes a lot of courage and strength to speak against such stigma and fight for your own dignity and rights. The fight for justice takes patience and this judgment gives hope to a lot of other females to speak about their abuse or any type of violation towards their body or dignity. The case opens the door for people of all genders to seek justice against such violations and abuse.