New Delhi—A Delhi Court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani on Wednesday in the criminal defamation case filed against her by former minister of state M.J. Akbar for her allegations of sexual harassment against him. On 10 February, the court had deferred the judgment to 17 February, saying the verdict was not yet complete since both the parties filed their written submission late.
Noting that a woman has the right to put her grievance forward even after decades, the Delhi court told Ramani, "You are acquitted from the present case". Ramani had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018.
The order was read out by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, who said, "Society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims." The court also conceded that Akbar was not "a man of stellar reputation", which, he argued, had been tarnished following Ramani's allegations against him.
Court accepts the possibility of defence of accused that she disclosed her truth on the basis her own testimony and that of Niloufer. Court accepts that Akbar was not a man of stellar reputation: court #MJAkbar #PriyaRamani— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) February 17, 2021
Ramani spoke out against Akbar's misconduct in 2018, as the #MeToo movement was gathering ground all over the world. After she alleged that Akbar had behaved inappropriately with her years ago when she was a rookie journalist who had met him in Mumbai for a job interview, several other women spoke up against Akbar, accusing him of sexual harassment and even rape.
Akbar denied all the allegations made against him by the women who came forward during the #MeToo campaign. On 15 October 2018, he filed a complaint against Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct from decades ago. Two days later he resigned from his role as Union minister.
Akbar was represented by Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra and Sandeep Kapur, Senior Partner at Karanjawala and Co. Ramani's case was defended by Senior Advocate Rebecca John with Advocate Bhavook Chauhan.
This is a developing story. It will be updated with more details from the judgment.