By Medha Nidhi S
The Supreme Court on February 17 acquitted Priya Ramani in the landmark defamation case judgement where it stated that the right to reputation cannot be held as more important than the right to dignity. The Supreme Court’s verdict that a woman can come forth with a sexual harassment complaint even years after the incident came as a relief to all the women who spoke up about their abusers during the #metoo movement.
“I feel vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken up about sexual harassment at the work place,” said Priya Ramani addressing the media after the verdict. She added that in spite of being victim, she had to defend herself on the stand, and thanked the Supreme Court and her legal team.
Priya Ramani is a journalist and editor who in October 2018 when the world was in the thick of the #metoo movement, accused former Union Minister MJ Akbar of sexually harassing her through a tweet. She said that Akbar had sexually harassed her when she met him at Mumbai’s Oberoi Hotel for a job interview in 1993.
Two weeks later, MJ Akbar denied the accusation and filed a defamation suit against Ramani, claiming that his reputation had been ruined in the eyes of the people due to the allegations made against him. He also resigned form his post as Union Minster soon after.
— Satish Acharya (@satishacharya) February 17, 2021
The defamation case stretched over two years, with Geeta Luthra representing the plaintiff, Akbar, and Rebecca John arguing for the defendant, Ramani. Over the course of the two years, over 20 women came out with similar accounts of their experience with MJ Akbar. For the first time, we saw the victim of sexual harassment having to prove her innocence; Ramani acted as her own witness in court.
After two long years of looking at the case, the Supreme Court on February 10th, the court extended the verdict in the defamation case filed till February 17, when the final verdict acquitting Ramani was given.
After the verdict
The Supreme Court’s verdict has received a warm welcome from Feminists, who have had to defend the #metoo movement from sceptics who objected to women coming out with their stories after years of the incident. While survivors of sexual abuse have had to hold their trauma in for years before finding the courage to name their abusers through the #metoo movement, this judgement has dealt with the issue sensitively, and proven that the SC has listened to the voices that spoke up during #metoo. This case will, hopefully, pave the way into bringing stricter rules against sexual harassment and ensure a safer environment for women.