Priya Ramani acquitted in MJ Akbar defamation case: 'Happy and proud', 'watershed moment'; journalists hail Delhi court's verdict
Ramani had made allegation of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018. Akbar had filed the complaint against Ramani on 15 October, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago
The acquittal of journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by former Union minister MJ Akbar by a Delhi court saw many prominent women journalists take to Twitter to celebrate the verdict and hail the "huge step forward for gender justice".
Akbar had sued Ramani around two years ago after she, apart from at least 20 other women, went public with allegations of sexual assault against the journalist-turned-politician as part of the #MeToo movement in India.
In its judgment, the Delhi court observed that even though Akbar was a man of reputation, a man of high social status can still be a sexual harasser, Bar & Bench reported.
Here are some reactions by prominent journalists:
— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) February 17, 2021
Barkha Dutt, posting on social media, said she was happy and proud to be in court today:
YES!!!! #PriyaRamani YES. Akbar's defamation case rejected. More power to more women to speak up and break the silence. Happy and proud to be in court today #MeToo pic.twitter.com/XgxScyeBYH — barkha dutt (@BDUTT) February 17, 2021
Swati Chaturvedi praised the Delhi court judge:
News18 political editor Marya Shakil called it a watershed moment for women in India:
2 years after #MeToo storm, watershed moment for women in India. Delhi Court says right to dignity is sacrosanct and a reputed man can be a sexual harasser. #PriyaRamaniAcquitted No More Fear! — Marya Shakil (@maryashakil) February 17, 2021
Anoo Bhuyan asked everyone criticising the #MeToo movement to read the judgement:
Everyone's criticism of #MeToo has been that: -Women complained too late -That too on social media, not via police complaints -And to bring down reputed men down Read today's judgement. Court says the MODE of #MeToo is an acceptable mode for women to take. — Anoo Bhuyan (@AnooBhu) February 17, 2021
Gargi Rawat hailed the fight shown by Ramani:
Sagarika Ghose called the verdict a big win for all women in India:
Delhi Court Acquits Priya Ramani In MJ Akbar's Criminal Defamation Case. This is a big win for all women in India and a huge step forward for gender justice in the workplace. Congratulations to the courageous #PriyaRamani and her lawyer Rebecca John. 👏🏽👏🏽 https://t.co/tkaFR80kEM — Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) February 17, 2021
Journalist and writer Namita Bhandare thanked all the women who stood up at great personal risk:
To all the women who stood up for many other women, at great personal risks, a thank you note. Priya's bravery gave us a landmark judgment. And your bravery made the #MeToo movement stronger. @TheRestlessQuil @Chinmayi @MasalaBai and sooooo many others. Thank you — Dhanya Rajendran (@dhanyarajendran) February 17, 2021
Ismat Ara tweeted a photo of Ramani after she came out of the courtroom:
In photo: Priya Ramani comes out of the courtroom smiling after the verdict. "This is a big moment for the #MeToo movement," she says. @thewire_in. pic.twitter.com/LV5mCXD0bW — Ismat Ara (@IsmatAraa) February 17, 2021
Namita Bhandare called the verdict a "resounding victory for India's women":
Truth prevails. What a resounding victory for India’s women, for all who spoke up and continue to do so. For Priya Ramani for refusing to be intimidated and giving courage to so many more who will continue to speak up. #MeToo #TimesUp — Namita Bhandare (@namitabhandare) February 17, 2021
Rituparna Chatterjee said Ramani took a movement that "failed a lot of us" and fought to the end:
I remember this day at the court... humbled to be standing beside extraordinary women. Gratitude and love to Priya, Rebecca, @namitabhandare@natashabadhwar@ghazalawahab and many many others. https://t.co/JLDQkMLzJe
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) February 17, 2021
#PriyaRamani has taken a movement that failed a lot of us and fought until the end. The men in gowns and suits can say what they like, to me, she won the moment she spoke out and helped so.many others do the same. — Asmita Bakshi (@asmitabee) February 17, 2021
CPIML Politburo member Kavita Krishnan said Ramani stood vindicated:
Bravo #PriyaRamani. Your abuser @mjakbar hit you with a SLAPP suit but you stand vindicated. Verdict empowers women, saying we shd "understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to mental trauma, cannot be punished for raising her voice against sexual abuse." pic.twitter.com/6pQZbc7epP — Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) February 17, 2021
Today is a big day for women India.
MJ Akbar had major powers behind him.
Salute to the courageous woman, Priya Ramani.
Advocate Rebecca John has made history by winning a vital battle for the women in India against all legal odds.
Caravan executive editor Vinod K Jose tweeted:
Truth wins eventually. https://t.co/xGUOuh8fq3
— Vinod K. Jose (@vinodjose) February 17, 2021
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, calling the verdict a big win for women in general, thanked Ramani for speaking up:
Congratulations to Priya Ramani and her able legal team led by Rabecca Jhon , a big win for women in general and for her in particular . Thank you Priya for speaking up when you did . This is a big victory for the #MeToo movement — Indira Jaising (@IJaising) February 17, 2021
Union minister Smriti Irani, reacting to the development, said "due protection had been given to women" by law, NDTV reported.
"I have stated this before, due protection has been given to women and the protectors of law can take action based on their statements," Irani told reporters when the news came in during her press briefing, as per NDTV.
The court had on 1 February reserved the judgment for 10 February after Akbar and Ramani completed their arguments.
However, on 10 February, the court deferred the judgment for 17 February, saying the verdict was not complete since both the parties filed their written submission late.
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 15 October, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.
He resigned as a Union minister on 17 October, 2018.
He has denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during the #MeToo campaign against him.
Earlier, during the arguments on the case, senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Ramani, said that Akbar should not get any relief as he chose to target Ramani to target other women.
"Why was Akbar not aggrieved by graver allegations made by Ghazala Wahab and Pallavi Gogoi. As charges became graver, Akbar became unsure. Wahab's allegations were of six months of sexual assault and harassment. Akbar opposed Gogoi's statement saying it was not rape but consensual relationship," John said.
Akbar had earlier told the court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as 'media's biggest predator' that harmed his reputation.
With inputs from PTI
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