17 Feb 2021: #MeToo: Priya Ramani acquitted in MJ Akbar's defamation case
A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted former journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation suit filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar.
In 2018, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct decades ago when he was working as a journalist.
Akbar had in October 2018 filed a suit against Ramani for allegedly defaming him.
Incidentally, at least 20 women have accused Akbar of sexual misconduct.
Court: 'Man of social status can be a sexual harasser'
Ramani was acquitted in the two-year-long trial in an order pronounced by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey.
The court observed that the complainant's case was not proved. It hence acquitted Ramani.
Noting that Akbar is a man of reputation, Judge Pandey said that even a man of a social status can be a sexual harasser, Bar and Bench reported.
Fact: 'Woman has right to put her grievance even after decades'
"Right of reputation can't be protected at the cost of right to dignity," Bar and Bench quoted Judge Pandey as saying. "Woman has right to put her grievance even after decades," the judge reportedly said while pronouncing the order.
Trial: Citing multiple similar allegations, Ramani questioned Akbar's 'stellar reputation'
Ramani had pleaded truth, good faith, public interest, and public good as her defenses in the trial.
Meanwhile, Akbar had denied meeting Ramani at the Mumbai hotel where he is alleged to have sexually harassed her.
Ramani argued that there was no evidence of Akbar's "stellar reputation" that she allegedly tarnished considering the number of sexual harassment allegations against him by multiple women.
Trial: Malicious, fabricated non-events: Akbar dismissed Ramani's allegations
On the other hand, Akbar said Ramani's allegations "stink of bad faith," declaring them malicious and "fabricated non-events."
The court had reserved its order on February 1. Initially, the verdict was supposed to be pronounced on February 10.
However, the pronouncement of the order was deferred till Wednesday as the judge said he had received the written submissions made by the parties late.
Background: Akbar allegedly harassed Ramani in 1993
According to Ramani, in 1993, Akbar had sexually harassed her when she was called to The Oberoi, Mumbai for a job interview. At the time, both Akbar and Ramani were working as journalists.
Ramani had first detailed the account in a 2017 open letter titled 'To the Harvey Weinsteins of the World' published in Vogue India. She had not named Akbar in the article.
Background: In October 2018, Akbar filed defamation suit against Ramani
On October 8, 2018, as the #MeToo movement gained momentum in India, Ramani named Akbar in a tweet while sharing her 2017 Vogue article.
She had said in the tweet: "Lots of women have worse stories about this predator—maybe they'll share."
Akbar denied the allegations, and on October 15, 2018, he filed a criminal defamation suit against Ramani.
Fact: Akbar had resigned as Union Minister as more allegations emerged
Eventually, more women came forth making similar allegations against Akbar, including an allegation of rape leveled by NPR Chief Business Editor Pallavi Gogoi. On October 17, 2018, the editor-turned-politician had resigned as the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs.