New Delhi, February 17: A woman has right to voice her grievance even after several years, a Delhi court said on Wednesday while acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her by former Union minister MJ Akbar, against whom she had levelled allegations of sexual harassment.
The verdict, which was earlier expected to be pronounced at 2 pm, was delayed after the judge said his judgement needed corrections.
Referring to ancient epics ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ in the judgement, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey said the texts were written to show the importance of dignity of a woman and it was shameful that such incidents were still happening in the country.
“Most women do not talk about the sexual harassment due to stigma that surrounds it. Sometimes even the victim does not understand as to what is happening. Despite going through extreme cruelty, the they chose to stay quiet,” the court said.
The court accepted the contention that Akbar was not a man of stellar and impeccable reputation and pointed out that right of reputation can’t be weighed over the right of the life of a woman.
It regretted the absence of laws to protect survivors of sexual harassment when the incident had happened. “Prior to the issuance of the Vishaka guidelines by the Supreme Court, they (survivors) did not have the option to lodge the complaint of sexual harassment due to social stigma,” the court ruled.
In 2018, Ramani had made allegation of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of #Metoo movement. According to the former journalist, in December 1993, Akbar sexually harassed her when she was called to a Mumbai hotel for a job interview, the Hindustan Times reported.
The allegations against Akbar had forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on October 17, 2018. Before resigning, he had filed a complaint against Ramani on October 15 for allegedly defaming him.
Senior advocate Rebecca John was appearing for Ramani while Geeta Luthra was for the former Union minister.