In this post we will discuss about the judgement of Delhi High Court in which it had acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by former union minister and their Akbar after she accused him of sexual misbehaviour during a work interview in December 1993 and emphasized in its treatment that right to protect once reputation cannot be at the cost of a woman’s right to dignity.
Facts of the case : in October 2018 Ramani shared an article on Twitter on which she had written in 2017 in vogue India magazine following all allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Hollywood producer of Harvey Weinstein made by several women as part of the me too movement in the United States. The article did not name MJ Akbar. it describes the experience of an interview with the newspaper editor for a reporters position but the tweet did. Akbar who was minister in BJP LED cabinet at the time resigned shortly after a host of women besides Ramani made allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against him in the wake of the me too movement.
However he filed a criminal defamation suit under section 500 of Indian penal code arguing that the incident was not as he described it in her article. He also asserted that a tweet by Ramani describing him as a Predator had caused irreparable damage to his reputation.
Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra argued that Ramani statement on Twitter word per se defamatory and questioned her decision to pick up several years after the purported incident. Luthra had pointed out that Ramani had no evidence in the form of CCTV footage or phone record to back her claim.
Related legal provisions:
- Section 500 of IPC
- ARTICLE 21 &14 of constitution of India
- Section 354A of IPC
Legal issues involved :
- whether priya Ramani could be held liable under section 500 of IPC for criminal defamation?
- Whether article 21 of Indian constitution is applicable in the present case ?
Decision of Delhi high court : the hon’ble Delhi high court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani. the court emphasized that the right to protect one’s reputation cannot be at the cost of a woman’s right to dignity. the court pointed out that even a person of high social standing can be a sexual harasser and that a woman cannot be punished for raising instances of abuse. the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right of life and dignity of women as printed in Indian constitution under article 21 and right of equality before law and equal protection of law has guaranteed under article 14 of the constitution. the court also held that the woman has a right to put her even at any platform of her choice and even after decade.
The court in its verdict recognised that no legal remedies by available to Ramani when she was sexually harassed the Vishaka guidelines against sexual harassment the sexual harassment of women at workplace prevention prohibition and redressal act and section 354 a which made sexual harassment a criminal offence only came up in subsequent years and that many women or not to complain even now due to the fear of stigma.
Most of the women who Safari review to not be about it for the simple reason of shame on stigma attached with the sexual harassment. The sexual abuse is committed against women takes away her dignity and her self-confidence.
Conclusion : hence we can conclude that Delhi High Court has very accurately balance the right to reputation of a person to the right of life and dignity of women as guaranteed under the constitution under article 21 and 14 by acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case.
This post is written by Karishma Jain
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