NEW DELHI: A Delhi court’s decision to acquit Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her by former Union minister MJ Akbar is bound to set a precedent and have a serious bearing on similar cases where women, who have spoken up on social media against their alleged sex offenders, have been slapped with defamation.
Legal experts called the decision a “well-founded” judgment, a big victory for the ‘MeToo’ movement and also good news for women facing similar defamation cases for allegedly exposing sexual offenders. The judge in his order on Wednesday stated that a woman has the right to put grievances before any platform of her choice even after decades of the crime.
Many women who spoke against their alleged sexual offenders have been taken to court, which according to these women, is a way of silencing them. Writer-Producer Vinita Nanda, who levelled rape charges against actor Alok Nath, is facing a defamation suit. Actor Tanushree Dutta is also facing a suit worth Rs 25 crore for levelling sexual harassment charges against actor Nana Patekar.
Supreme Court advocate Rekha Aggarwal called the verdict “important” and said it will definitely have a bearing on similar cases. “The law recognises that delay in speaking up is not an issue if there are valid reasons for staying quiet, whether they be in the form of pressure from the family, or for the time that the victim needs to take to fully absorb and acknowledge the crime,” Aggarwal said.
Lawyer Vrinda Grover said that the court has held that a woman’s right to dignity can’t be subordinated to claims of reputation by a man. Senior Public Prosecutor AT Ansari agreed, “Today’s well-founded judgment will certainly bring serious bearing on such other cases. Delay in reporting can’t be used as a ritualistic formula for doubting the veracity of allegations.”
SC lawyer Karuna Nandy said Wednesday’s verdict sets an important precedent for truth, spoken in the public interest. She said, “The law is also a shield, not just a sword. This victory is significant because it preserves the right of women to speak and have published their true MeToo accounts of sexual assault and harassment, if they choose not to go to court. Many won’t, until we strengthen the system.