Former India Minister Loses Defamation Suit in #MeToo Case
(Bloomberg) -- An Indian Court has rejected a defamation petition by former junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar against a journalist who accused him of sexual harassment in 2018 as the country’s #MeToo movement began to create awareness about the systemic harassment faced by women in the South Asian nation.
Acquitting journalist Priya Ramani from charges of criminal defamation, a trial court in Delhi said “a woman cannot be punished for raising their voice on the pretext of criminal defamation”. Akbar has served in top positions in several Indian publications and became a minister in Narendra Modi’s government in 2016. It also rejected Akbar’s argument that he had a “stellar reputation.”
The ruling against Akbar is a victory for the #MeToo movement as well. A conviction for Ramani after two years of trial, as sought by Akbar would have undone what women in the movement achieved by speaking out about their experiences and encouraging others. The verdict also draws attention to the need for institutional investment for protection of women from sexual harassment at workplace.
Among the most high profile accused during the movement Akbar, resigned as minister 2018 after filing the suit against Ramani. Akbar was accused by over a dozen women, including a Bloomberg News journalist based in London. Allegations pertain to inappropriate behavior decades ago when he was in senior positions several Indian publications.
Akbar has maintained that the allegations against him are false and baseless. He can appeal the decision in a higher court.
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