A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation case against her over allegations of sexual harassment, saying a woman has the right to put grievances before any platform of her choice even after decades.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey dismissed the complaint filed by Akbar saying that no charges were proved against her.
The court said it was shameful that crimes against women were taking place in a country where mega epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were written about respecting them.
Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018.
Akbar had filed the complaint against Ramani on October 15, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.
He resigned as a union minister on October 17, 2018.
Akbar has so far denied all allegations of sexual harassment made against him by women who came forward during the #MeToo campaign.
A top editor in several publications, Akbar became a central minister in 2016. He was forced to quit in a haze of allegations. He has maintained that the allegations against him are false and baseless.
Rejecting his argument, the court said sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence and the “right of reputation” can’t be protected at the cost of the right to dignity.
“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 Ramani told reporters.
Activists said a conviction for Priya Ramani after two years of trial would have undone what women in the movement achieved by speaking out about their experiences and encouraging others.