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Sexual harassment allegations: Delhi court acquits Priya Ramani in defamation case filed by MJ Akbar

The court also said that time has come for our society to understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to the mental trauma.

On Wednesday, a Delhi court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar over her #Metoo allegations.

According to the reports, the Court observed that a man of social status can also be a sexual harasser and woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, delivering the judgement said sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence. Hence, the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right to dignity, the Court held.

“The society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims”, the Court said, adding the defendant had the rights under Article 21 that is guaranteed under the Constitution. She has full right to put up her case in any platform of her choice, the court said.

Further, the court also said that 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, Justice Pandey noted.

The Court also accepted Ramani’s contention that MJ Akbar’s claim of a stellar reputation was demolished by Ghazala Wahab’s testimony, who was also allegedly sexually abused by Akbar.

Interestingly, in its order, the court also cited an instance of Valmiki Ramayan saying when Shri Laxman, when asked to describe Sita, mentions he never looked beyond her feet, to establish that reverence to women is essential in Indian ethos.

Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra represented MJ Akbar while Priya Ramani was represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca John.

MJ Akbar had filed a defamation case after Priya Ramani had accused him of sexual harassment in the wake of the #Metoo movement which had gathered considerable attention in 2019, to which the journalist pleaded not guilty. Following the allegations, he was forced to resign from the Union Cabinet on 17 October 2018.

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