Hope, Vindication, Appreciation of Courage: Journalists React to Priya Ramani's Acquittal

Among Ramani's most ardent supporters were women journalists, who accompanied her to court hearings, testified on her behalf and rallied for her on Twitter.

New Delhi: Relief, vindication and recognition of the fight ahead marked reactions to the landmark verdict by additional chief metropolitan magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey, that acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed against her by M.J. Akbar after she came forward with sexual harassment allegations against him.

The case, argued for two years, had seen support for Ramani from women and men across professions, but particularly journalists. Ramani’s fellow journalists had not only accompanied her to court hearings, testified in the case and stood by her, they have also been vocal on Twitter.

In addition to recognising that a sexual harassment complaint could well be made decades later, the court also accepted Ramani’s contention that “Akbar’s claim of a stellar reputation was demolished by Ghazala Wahab’s testimony.”

Wahab had detailed her long experience of harassment – physical, sexual and mental – when she was an employee at Akbar’s Asian Age newspaper in an article on The Wire.

Reacting to the judgment, she told The Wire, “Today was one of those sobering moments which validates the struggle of all women, across all strata of society, whether they work at home or outside. It is a moment when we need to reflect on the long distance that we have covered and gird ourselves up for the road ahead. Calling it a victory suggests culmination of a process. It is akin to calling #MeToo a movement. That is why in the last two years people were quick to declare end of the movement or its fizzling out.”

Within an hour of the verdict, the hashtag #MeToo trended on Twitter as people – both at the Rouse Avenue court and elsewhere – reacted to the acquittal.

Many recognised that the moment did not lend itself to jubilation at all but was a small victory in a long path which is yet to see equality.

Messages of appreciation also poured in for senior advocate Rebecca John, who argued Ramani’s case.