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Delhi court acquits Priya Ramani in criminal defamation case by MJ Akbar (read order)

M.J. 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.

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Granting major relief to journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed against her by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court observed that “right to dignity cannot be protected at the cost of right to life”.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey while acquitting Ramani from the defamation case further observed that a woman cannot be punished for raising her voice against sexual abuse.

“Time has come for our society to understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to the mental trauma. The woman cannot be punished for raising her voice against sexual abuse,” the court said.

It further observed that most women do not speak about harassment for the social stigma attached to it.

“A victim has a right to put her grievance even after years and decades,” the court noted.

The court also accepted the contention that Akbar was not a man of stellar and impeccable reputation. “It can’t be ignored that most of the times the offence of sexual harassment takes place inside closed doors and the victim may not understand what is actually happening to them,” the court said.

“Sometimes even the victim does not understand what is happening. Despite going through extreme cruelty, the victim chooses to stay quiet,” the court noted.

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.

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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