The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to journalist Priya Ramani on an appeal filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar against the dismissal of criminal defamation case against her by a trial court.
A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta issued notice on an appeal filed by Mobashar Jawed Akbar against the February 17, 2021 verdict of an Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM), acquitting Ramani for levelling allegations of sexual harassment against him. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 13.
Akbar was represented by Senior Advocates Rajiv Nayar and Geeta Luthra, briefed by a team from Karanjawala & Co, led by Sandeep Kapur, Senior Partner, and comprising of Vir Sandhu, Rajat Soni, Vivek Suri, Niharika Karanjawala, Apoorva Pandey and Sidhant Singh, Advocates.
Mr Akbar submitted in his petition that the ACMM verdict suffers from grave infirmities, which is apparent from the fact that while dealing with the present complaint, the court completely departed from the facts in issue and made general observations, without addressing the averments made by the complainant. Moreover, the court did not ascribe any reason for disregarding the evidence led by the complainant, as well as the testimony of the complainant’s witnesses.
Mr Akbar sought to highlight that once the trial court held that the content was defamatory in nature, there was a duty cast upon the trial judge to explain what exactly Ramani opted as her defence to this charge, and how her defence was accepted.
The petition pointed out that the trial court dismissed Ramani’s defence that only part of the article was about Akbar and rest were about other male bosses since the article did not mark any distinction, but failed to explain why she was not held culpable.
Further, Mr Akbar questioned the trial court’s verdict for accepting Ramani’s defence when she called an incorrect tweet by her about resignation by Akbar as an “honest mistake”. The appeal said the trial court did not analyse the evidence in this regard nor did it assess the impact of the wrong post on his reputation.
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 in connection with her allegations of sexual harassment against him.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, while acquitting Ramani held, “… the court is of the considered view that the case of complainant regarding commission of offence punishable under Section 500 IPC against the accused Priya Ramani is not proved and she is acquitted for the same.”
The Judge further 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 observed.
It also said that the victims of sexual abuse do not even speak a word about the abuse for many years because sometimes, she herself has no idea that she has been a victim of abuse. The victim may keep believing that she is at fault and 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 a woman, takes away her dignity and her self-confidence, the court noted.
In October 2018, Ramani had accused the then Minister of State for External Affairs Akbar 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.
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 true and 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.