PRIYA RAMANI v. M.J. AKBAR

Mauli Bisen

Facts: Following the landmark judgment in the case of Vishaka, in 1997, the Supreme Court issued the Vishakha Guidelines, which dealt with all types of sexual harassment complaints, covering all workplaces, whether public or private and mandated by the court to be followed. The Vishaka Guidelines have given rise to a number of movements and initiatives to address sexual assaults at work and the trauma it causes to women. The popular movement which was the #metoo was also one of the initiatives in this regard. So many women took advantage of the opportunity and came up with their stories.
There has recently been one further improvement in this respect, i.e., following the pronouncement made by the High Court of Delhi in the case of Priya Ramani.
“Is work-friendly environment, dignity, self-respect of a woman too much to ask for?” It is the motive that kept Priya Ramani still standing strong on the need for a safe place of work for all women out there. What gave rise to this basic demand was the 2018 incident when Priya Ramani went to the renowned, socially and politically rigid Minister of the Union of Ministers, MJ Akbar, for a job interview.
Before entering politics, Akbar used to work in all the key editorial positions in all the leading newspapers, so Ramani was looking for a little help, but little did she know what she was waiting for in the next moment? In turn, she was invited by the Minister to his hotel room, which was something objectionable. She refused the offer, but a year later, during an interview with a niche fashion magazine, when she described the above incident by calling the Minister a "sexual predator" followed by her tweets about the same incident, she was later sued by the Minister in a "defamation case" two days after the Minister resigned. Because Ramani was steady and firm about the incident and exposed the minister, it became all intimidating to him, and so he decided to sue her for ruining the "stellar" reputation he had.
Wednesday (Feb 17, '21) was a good day since the Delhi High Court, by its judgment in the case of defamation, found Priya Ramani innocent and absolved her of all the charges of defamation that the then Union Minister had brought against her who had been accused of sexual misconduct. The trial of the same had begun in the month of January 19, and then almost two years later the proceedings were brought to an end by the Hon'ble court, which also put to an end to the false power and fame that folks like MJ Akbar take on thinking that they own almost everything and a person.
Judgment
The reason why this judgment caught the eyes of the viewers would not only be that the justice-seeking end had to fight against a name that had been well established and established in the political and social world. Following Ms. Ramani's tweet, there were almost 14 other women who brought similar charges against MJ Akbar. While the proceedings were in place, Ramani's tweets were denied from the side of Akbar, where he accused her of criminal defamation.
According to Akbar, there was no conformity to the fact that Ramani had been called to meet him at the hotel in which he stayed, or to the fact that she had made a call to him from the reception, or that she had been called to his room from his side. Ramani was accused of using a language that was "profoundly offensive" to him, and he was also accused of ruining the public reputation he held. Not only that but also the image of Akbar carried in the family and friends was also diminished. As Akbar pointed out, it became important on his side to file this case of defamation against the allegations made by Ramani only to "protect his reputation" that he had earned over the years.
After a glimpse of the allegations, the denial and affirmation of the final verdict handed down by the Delhi court put an end to all by making it lean on Ramani's side of the facts of the case and by making it a judgment that is consistent with all the laws working and working towards the elimination of social evil and all assaults at the workplace. And so, on 17 February '21, after having sorted out all the facts and issues of the case, the Delhi court absolved Ramani of all the charges brought against her for defamation. At the same time, the court also stated that "a woman has the right to file her grievances even after decades."