India World

India’s former deputy foreign minister loses high profile Me Too defamation case

A former minister in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet  lost a defamation suit filed against journalist Priya Ramani, who had accused him of sexual harassment.

In 2018, Ramani became the first of a string of women to go public with allegations against MJ Akbar, a former high-profile newspaper editor who went on to become India’s deputy foreign minister in 2016.

“Women can’t be punished for raising instances of sexual abuse,” the judge said in his verdict on Wednesday.

“The Indian constitution allows women to put forward her grievances before any forum and at any time,” the judge said.

Speaking to media after the verdict, Ramani said she was “vindicated on behalf of all the women who have ever spoken out against sexual harassment in the workplace”.

Ramani was inspired by the Me Too movement against sexual assault that sprang up in the United States and spread worldwide following accusations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

Ramani wrote an article about the inappropriate behaviour of an unnamed editor the same year and one year later alleged it was Akbar.

Akbar called the allegations “baseless”.

Soon after, he stepped down as junior foreign minister and sued Ramani for defamation, saying her accusations had caused “irreparable damage to his reputation and goodwill”.