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Why Priya Ramani winning case against MJ Akbar is key milestone in India’s #MeToo Movement

In a historic moment in the India’s #MeToo movement, a Delhi Court presided by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, Rouse Avenue Court, New Delhi said that “women have the right to report sexual abuse or any form of abuse even decades after it has taken place.” 
 
Acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in MJ Akbar’s defamation case, the court said: “Woman has the right to put her grievance at a platform of her choice even after decades. It observed that a man of social status can also be a sexual harasser. Sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence. Right of reputation can’t be protected at the cost of right to dignity,” the Court held.
 
Judge Samar Vishal took cognizance of MJ Akbar’s criminal defamation complaint in October 2018. He thereafter went on to summon Priya Ramani and grant her bail in the matter. 
 
The court observed: “The society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims. Article 21 and the right to equality is guaranteed under the Constitution. She has full right to put up her case in any platform of her choice. Time has come for our society to understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to the mental trauma. The woman cannot be punished for raising her voice against sexual abuse.” 
 
The court accepted the possibility of defence of accused that she made the disclosure after other women named Akbar as a sexual predator. The Court also accepted that Akbar was not a man of stellar reputation.
 
It accepted Ramani’s contention that Akbar’s claim of a stellar reputation was demolished by Ghazala Wahab’s testimony, who was also allegedly sexually harassed by Akbar. Reacting to the verdict, Ramani said “I feel amazing, I feel vindicated to have my truth accepted in a court of law.” 
 
“It's an amazing judgment, we feel grateful that the court has gone through the evidence so meticulously. The defense had put up a very, very strong rebuttal to the case of the complainant, that defense is upheld,” John added.
 
With the court's verdict, it is clear that this is a defining moment for women in India as this judgement doesn't normalise the usual perspective of criminalising women for reporting sexual abuse or just any form of abuse. And, instead gives women a voice to report it, considering the trauma and other mental health issues they face during or after the abuse.
 
Reacting to this judgement, many netizens celebrated it as a milestone judgement in India's MeToo Movement which could pave way for more women coming out and reporting abuse, even if the abuser is a high-profile person. 
 
After reading out the verdict in open court, judge Pandey informed the parties that in case of disagreement, the option of appeal was available to them. Priya Ramani was represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca M. John along with advocates Bhavook Chauhan, Harsh Bora, Megha Bahl and Praavita Kashyap.
 
Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra, Sandeep Kapur, Senior Partner at Karanjawala and Co along with advocates Vir Inderpal Singh Sandhu, Rajat Soni,Vivek Suri, Niharika Karanjawala, Shivani Luthra Lohiya, Asmita Narula, and Sidhant Krishan appeared for MJ Akbar.
 

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