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Court acquits journalist Priya Ramani in defamation case filed by MJ Akbar

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: A Delhi Court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani of defamation charges filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar’s over her allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

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Acquitting her of all the charges, Delhi Court said, “Women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse,” adding that “the Indian constitution allows women to put forward her grievances before any forum and at any time,” the judge said, taking cognisance of the lack of mechanisms to raise sexual harassment complaints.

“It can’t be ignored that most times sexual harassment is committed behind closed doors… Most of the women who suffer abuse can’t often speak up due to stigma and attack on their character,” added Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey.

“It feels amazing, truly does. I feel vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken out against sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment has got the attention it deserves despite the fact that it is me, being the victim who had to stand up in court as the accused,” Priya told the media after the verdict.

Journalist Priya Ramani in 2018 under a rending movement #MeToo movement had accused the former editor, MJ Akbar, of sexual misconduct.  Tweeting a newspaper article, she said the alleged sexual misconduct took place around 20 years ago, when Mr Akbar headed Asian Age. He had called her to his hotel bedroom for a job interview and behaved inappropriately, her tweet read.

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In a 41-page defamation suit, Mr Akbar alleged that Priya’s tweets and newspaper article had spoiled the reputation and goodwill he built over 40 years and he had to step down from PM Modi’s government. To note, Mr Akbar back then a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, approached the court on October 15, 2018 but resigned two days later, on October 17.

However, Ms Ramani had alleged that the lawsuit was “an attempt to intimidate” her and was also an attempt to “create a chilling effect among all the women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar”.

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