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#MeToo: MJ Akbar Loses Defamation Case Against Priya Ramani

Priya Ramani is optimistic that her victory will encourage other women to speak up.

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Following a trial which lasted almost two years and became one of India’s most high-profile cases arising out of the #MeToo movement, a Delhi trial court on Wednesday, 17 February acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed against her by former Union Minister MJ Akbar.

In the criminal defamation suit, Akbar had claimed that an article by Ramani, written for Vogue in 2017 amid the #MeToo movement, and a subsequent tweet about him in 2018 when the movement was sweeping India, caused damage to his “stellar reputation”.

Ramani had contested these claims pleading truth, good faith, public interest and public good as her defences in the defamation trial – and as the court pronounced its verdict on 17 February, it observed that these defences raised by her were justified in light of systemic abuse of women at the workplace.

The acquittal order was scheduled to be pronounced by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey at 2 pm. However, the parties were asked to reconvene in 30 minutess by the judge to make some minor corrections to the verdict.

When the court reconvened, Judge Pandey noted the following in the order: “Right of reputation can't be protected at the cost of right to dignity”

The judge also noted that a man of "stellar reputation" can also be a sexual harasser and that “the Indian Constitution allows a woman to put forward her grievance before any forum, and at any time, even after decades.”

What does this victory mean? What next for MJ Akbar?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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