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.
— Anoo Bhuyan (@AnooBhu) February 17, 2021
Akbar came flanked by tons of cops but hey, #PriyaRamani had her Army of Women. We stood there fearing the worst, but ready for battle. And now, we can all breathe for just a few minutes at least . Thank you Rebecca John for fighting the good fight pic.twitter.com/I9eKtXTZK4
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) February 17, 2021
This part of Justice Pandey’s judgement in the #PriyaRamani trial means so much.
Thinking of women who’ve struggled for years with the difficulty of speaking out, only to be told when they do find the words, “why didn’t you speak then”. To hear this in court today was freeing. https://t.co/FD4EayrwEa
— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) February 17, 2021
What a fight #PriyaRamani. The downfall of every sexual predator is the only way forward.
— Rohini Singh (@rohini_sgh) February 17, 2021
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.
Let’s note that today there is a celebratory mood only because a SURVIVOR of sexual harassment has not been punished for speaking up.
Awaiting a day when culprits are punished for their crimes. That’ll be true victory and justice for survivors, everywhere.#MeToo
— Zeba Warsi (@Zebaism) February 17, 2021
It is a day to celebrate for the many/few #Iamwithpriya advocates for truth, and Priya Ramai and her talented pro-bono legal team. And, also worth remembering this was a case *against* a woman who credibly and bravely said #metoo while nothing has ever been done about all the men
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) February 17, 2021
Messages of appreciation also poured in for senior advocate Rebecca John, who argued Ramani’s case.
Let us not also forget Rebecca John who took on a major law firm and 99 of its team…
— pamela philipose (@pamelaphilipose) February 17, 2021
When women stand up for each other, the whole world will change. Thank you for speaking your truth Priya Ramani. Thank you for fighting the good fight Rebecca John. pic.twitter.com/8pEsFqDpwe
— Namita Bhandare (@namitabhandare) February 17, 2021