Unless you have been in outer space for the past three years, you would have heard about Priya Ramani’s long running legal battle (over allegations of sexual harassment) with now-Former Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar. In a landmark judgement the Delhi High Court said on 17th February 2021 that “the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman”. The Print nicely captured the Indian media’s interpretation of this judgement saying that “In doing so, the court has now laid down a precedent for women to speak up against sexual harassment — irrespective of the time elapsed since the alleged incident or the platform on which the woman chooses to speak up.
Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey asserted that a “woman cannot be punished for raising voice against the sex abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Indian Constitution under Article 21 and right of equality before law and equal protection of law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution”.
The court also said a woman has “a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades”.
The court applied ‘preponderance of probabilities’ as the standard of proof for Ramani’s defence. Preponderance of probabilities is a legal principle on the standard of proof that the parties to a case need to fulfil, and required the judge to persuade himself to just lean on one side as opposed to the other.
The degree of proof needed is lower in case of preponderance of probabilities, as compared to beyond reasonable doubt, which is the standard of proof for the prosecution in criminal cases.
The court, therefore, accepted the “possibility” of Ramani’s allegations, and noted: “The Court accepts the contention of the accused and the possibility of defence of the accused that she disclosed the truth regarding the incident of sexual harassment against her at the Oberoi Hotel, Bombay in December, 1993 on the basis of testimony of accused DW1 and its corroboration by the testimony of DW2 Niloufer Venkatraman.” (Source: https://theprint.in/judiciary/
Given the transformational nature of this verdict and what it does to empower women in India, it is worth understanding who is Priya Ramani because by understanding the roots and origins of people such as her, we can understand how India is changing for the better. Ms Ramani’s Wikipedia page says: “Ramani began working at The Asian Age in 1994, then Reuters, Elle, India Today, Cosmopolitan magazine and Mint Lounge. Ramani has also written for Livemint, Indian Express, and Vogue India. Ramani led Mint Lounge for eight years. She is an editor at large at Juggernaut Books for its digital properties. Ramani also serves as an editorial board member of Article 14, a website about the rule of law in India….
On October 12, 2017, Vogue India published an article by Ramani titled “To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world,” that was styled as an open letter and begins with “Dear Male Boss.” CNN reports that Ramani described workplace harassment during a job interview in a Mumbai hotel room…
On October 28, 2020, Ramani, her husband Samar Halarnkar, and their friend Niloufer Venkatraman created the India Love Project on Instagram, “a celebration of interfaith/inter-caste love and togetherness in these divisive, hate-filled times.” The Project began in response to backlash against an advertising campaign that featured an interfaith couple, and has expanded to help couples find legal and counseling assistance….”veteran journalists” Ramani, Halarnkar and Venkatraman created the India Love Project “on the fly, without thinking through too many details, adopting a millennial entrepreneur strategy,” and have since been “absolutely inundated with responses.””
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