A Delhi court on 17 February acquitted Priya Ramani in the MJ Akbar defamation case. The court issued its verdict on the defamation case filed against her for accusing Akbar of sexual harassment. Priya Ramani and many other women across the world narrated alleged incidents at a time two years ago when #MeToo trended on Twitter.
Most of the incidents had happened years ago when they had chosen not to raise an alarm for reasons known best to themselves. Priya Ramani had alleged that in December 1993, Akbar had sexually harassed her when she called him to a Mumbai hotel for an interview.
The judgment, which was initially to be pronounced at 2 PM on 17 February, was delayed after the judge stated that it required some corrections. Reacting to the verdict, Ramani said, “I feel amazing, I feel vindicated to have my truth accepted in a court of law.”
Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey said, “Right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of right to dignity. ” The court observed, “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 Delhi court stated that Article 21 and the right to equality was granted to every citizen under the Constitution of India. The judge said that Priya Ramani had all the right to “put up her case in any platform of her choice”.
The court, showing empathy towards victims of sexual abuse, stated, “The social stigma attached with (sic) the allegations.. society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims.”
The Delhi Court said that the “court accepts Priya Ramani’s contention that Akbar’s claim of a stellar reputation was demolished by Ghazala Wahab’s testimony, who was allegedly sexually abused by Akbar”.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John said, “The court has believed Priya Ramani and said that whatever she has said is her truth and there is no reason to disbelieve her.”