After the landmark judgment made in the Vishaka’s case, in the year 1997 the Supreme Court came up with the Vishakha guidelines which was a redressal of all types of sexual harassment complaints that covered all the workplaces whether it be public or private and was mandated by the court to be followed. The Vishaka guidelines gave rise to several movements and initiatives to address the sexual assaults taking place at work and the trauma it creates for the women. The popular #metoo movement was also one of the initiatives in this regard. So many women availed the opportunity and came up with their stories. Lately, there has been one more improvement made in that regard i.e. after the pronouncement made by the Delhi High Court in the Priya Ramani’s case.
The defamation case
“Self-respect, dignity and an enabling work-environment is too much to ask for?'' is the motive that kept Priya Ramani standing still and strong upon the need of a safe workplace for the women out there. What gave rise to this basic demand was the incident when in 2018, Priya Ramani went to a renowned, socially and politically stiff and a minister to the union of ministers- MJ Akbar for a job interview.
Before entering into politics Akbar used to work in all the key editorial positions in all the leading newspapers and so Ramani sought his help but little did she know what was waiting for her in the next moment? In turn of asking for help, she was invited by the minister to his hotel room which was something objectionable. She obviously refused to the offer but a year later when during an interview with a niche fashion magazine she described the above incident by calling the minister a “sexual predator” followed by her tweets on the same incident, she was later sued by the minister in a ‘defamation case’ 2 days after which the minister resigned his post. Due to Ramani being steady and firm about the incident and exposing the minister, it became all intimidating to him and so he decided to sue her for ruining the “stellar” reputation he had.
Wednesday ( 17th feb ’21) was a good day since the Delhi High Court, through its judgment over the defamation case, held Priya Ramani innocent and acquitted her of all the defamation charges that the then Union Minister had put on her whom she had accused of sexual misconduct. The Trial to the same had begun in the month of January ’19 and then almost 2 years later the proceedings were put to an end by the hon'ble court which also put an end to the false power and fame that people like MJ Akbar carry thinking that they own almost everything and person.
The reason why this judgment caught the eyes of the viewers would not only be the fact that their justice-seeking end had had to fight against a name that had been well established and set up in the political and social world. After the tweet made by Ms. Ramani, there were almost 14 other women who came up with similar charges against MJ Akbar. While the proceedings were in place, the tweets made by Ramani were denied from the side of Akbar where he framed charges of criminal defamation against her.
According to Akbar, there was no conformity for the fact that Ramani was called to meet him at the hotel he was staying in or the fact that she made a call to him from the reception or was called to his room from his side. Ramani was accused of usage of language that was “deeply offensive” to him and also accused of ruining the public reputation that he carried. Not just that but also the image Akbar carried in the family and friends was also diminished. As mentioned by Akbar, it became important on his side to file this case of defamation against the allegations made by Ramani only to “protect his reputation” he had earned throughout the years.
After a see-saw ride of allegations, denial and affirmation the final verdict given by the Delhi court put an end to all by making it lean towards Ramani’s side of the facts of the case and making it a judgment that’s placed in line with all the laws working and operating towards eliminating the social evil and all the assaults at the working place. And so on the 17th of February ’21 after sorting out all the facts and issues of the case, the Delhi court acquitted Ramani of all the charges that were put against her of defamation. The court while giving the pronouncement also quoted that, “a woman has the right to put forth her grievances even after decades.”