Saturday, April 17, 2021

Indian minister loses #MeToo defamation case


tiamin rice

A former minister in Narendra Modi’s government MJ Akbar on Wednesday lost a defamation suit against a female journalist who accused him of sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo movement in 2018.

The journalist, Priya Ramani, has been acquitted of all charges by a Delhi court, her lawyer Rebecca John said.

Ramani wrote an article in 2017 in which she recounted her first experience of workplace harassment but did not name her harasser.

In 2018 during the worldwide #MeToo movement, Ramani identified him in a tweet as Akbar, a prominent newspaper editor turned politician.

She alleged that he had called her to his hotel bedroom for a job interview 20 years ago and behaved inappropriately.

Ramani’s tweet was followed by similar allegations against Akbar by several women.

Akbar subsequently resigned from the post of junior foreign minister saying he needed to fight the smearing of his reputation in court.

He filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, the first woman among more than a dozen to name him.

“Right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity,” the court said in its order according to legal reporting website Bar&Bench.

The court also observed that even a man with social status could be a sexual harasser.

The court noted that there was a lack of mechanisms to raise sexual harassment complaints at the time of the incident and that women “cannot be punished for raising such instances”, legal website LiveLaw reported.

“It can’t be ignored that most times sexual harassment is committed behind closed doors … Most of the women who suffer abuse can’t often speak up due to stigma and attack on their character,” the court said.


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