The Rouse Avenue Court in Delhi acquitted journalist Priya Ramani on Wednesday, February 17 in the criminal defamation case filed against her by former Union Minister MJ Akbar over the sexual harassment allegations.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Ravindra Pandey pronounced the landmark verdict in a virtual courtroom.
The court made some crucial observations while pronouncing the verdict. "Woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades. Sexual abuse takes away the dignity and self-confidence," the court observed.
Akbar had filed a defamation suit in October 2018 claiming that Ramani caused damage to his 'stellar reputation' by accusing him of sexual harassment in an article written in 2017 and a tweet posted in 2018 as a part of the #MeToo India movement. Akbar was accused of harassment by several women during the movement, LiveLaw reported.
In response, Ramani had said, "Truth is my defence." She had argued that one accused of sexual misconduct cannot in the first place, claim to have a stellar reputation.
Ramani was summoned by the court in January 2019 and released on bail in February 2019.
The court observed that "even a man of social status can be a sexual harasser". Taking note of the absence of Vishakha guidelines at the time of the case, the judge said that the society needed to understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims.
On February 1, the court had reserved the judgment after hearing the counsels' arguments for Akbar and Ramani. The order was scheduled to be passed on February 10, but it was adjourned by a week, as the judge did not get the written submissions in due time.