Journalist Priya Ramani, acquitted in the defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar, today said she feels "vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken out against sexual harassment in the workplace". Asked what the judgment meant for India's #MeToo movement, she said, "I hope it will make more women speak up. I also hope it will discourage powerful men from filing false cases against women who share their truths".
The judgment in the case -- filed after Ms Ramani accused Mr Akbar of sexual misconduct more than two decades ago -- came after a two-year legal battle. The Delhi court, which was hearing the case, had endorsed women's right to flag sexual harassment "before any forum and at any time".
"It feels amazing, truly does," Ms Ramani said. "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," she told the media after the verdict.
Ms Ramani's husband Samar Halarnkar, a journalist, tweeted:
Finally. Vindication. pic.twitter.com/Fk7Co0urIN— Samar Halarnkar (@samar11) February 17, 2021
Mr Akbar, who was the junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, had to step down after Ms Ramani's allegations -- made amid the #MeToo movement. It had triggered a spate of similar charges from around 20 women who worked under him as journalists.
In a 41-page defamation suit, Mr Akbar had alleged that Ms Ramani's tweet had robbed him of the reputation and goodwill built over decades and cost him his place in the government.
He had also told the court that Ms Ramani's allegations of sexual misconduct were "fabricated and false". Denying the similar allegations by other women, he had said that he would take legal action against them.
In its judgment, the court said today that the constitution allows women to put forward her grievances "before any forum and at any time".
"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.