Sunday, February 5, 2023

Delhi HC adjourns hearing on MJ Akbar’s appeal challenging journalist Priya Ramani’s acquittal in criminal defamation case

On February 17, Delhi's Rouse Avenue Court had acquitted journalist Priya Ramani from the criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister and senior journalist M.J. Akbar with her allegations of sexual harassment against him.

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The Delhi High Court will on May 5 hear the appeal filed by former External Affairs Minister M J Akbar against the trial court order acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed by the politician for tarnishing his image in the wake of MeToo movement.

The matter was adjourned as Justice Mukta Gupta’s court, which was slated to hear the matter, was on leave.

On February 17, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani from the criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister and senior journalist M.J. Akbar with her allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey while acquitting Ramani held, “…Court is of the considered view that case of complainant regarding commission of offence punishable U/s 500 IPC against the accused Priya Ramani is not proved and she is acquitted for the same.”

Speaking further the judge said that the Indian women are capable, pave the way for them to excel, they only require the freedom and equality.

“The ‘glass ceiling’ will not prevent the Indian women as a road lock for their advancement in the society, if equal opportunity and social protection be given to them,” the court said.

The court also said that the victims of the sexual abuse not even speak a word about abuse for many years because sometimes she herself have no idea that she is a victim of abuse. The victim may keep believing that she is at fault and victim may live with that shame for years or for decades.

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 court noted.

The attack on the character of sex-­abuser or offender by sex-abuse victim, is the reaction of self-defense 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 sex­abuse 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.

Taking note of the rising cases of crime against women, the court said, “It is shameful that the incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in the country where mega epics such as
‘Mahabarata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were written around the theme of respect for women.”

While ruling in Ramani’s favour, the court also took note of the systematic abuse at the workplace due to lack of the mechanism to
redress the grievance of sexual harassment at the time of the incident of sexual harassment against Ramani and witness Ghazala Wahab was prior to the issuance of Vishaka Guidelines and their option to not lodge the complaint of sexual harassment due to the social stigma attached with the sexual ­harassment of women.

In October 2018, Ramani had accused the then Minister of State for External Affairs of sexual harassment. She took to Twitter to allege that Akbar sexually harassed her when she was called to Mumbai’s Oberoi Hotel for a job interview in 1993. After that, Akbar moved a Delhi court with his defamation complaint against Ramani.

Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the MeToo movement in 2018.

Akbar had filed the criminal defamation complaint against Ramani on October 15, 2018 for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct over two decades ago.

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Akbar resigned from his post later that month, denying allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him. Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him the media’s biggest predator that harmed his reputation.

Ramani had said that her allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar were her truth and were made in public good. Advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, had said that Akbar should not get any relief as he chose to target Ramani and other women.

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