#MeToo case: ‘Shameful’ that crime against women happening on land of Mahabharata, Ramayana, says court

A Delhi Court on Wednesday said that it is “shameful” that the incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in a country in which the Mahabharata and Ramayana were written around the theme of respect for women.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey made the remarks while acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar for accusing him of sexual misconduct.

In the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018, Ramani had made an allegation of sexual harassment against Akbar for harassing her in 1994. Pursuant to this, he filed the criminal defamation case against her and resigned as the Union Minister.

In a 91-page order, the court stated, “It is shameful that the incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in the country where mega epics such as ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were written around the theme of respect for women.”

The judge goes on to write that in the Ramayana, the reference of great respect is found, when Prince Laxman was asked to describe Princesses Sita, he answered that he remembers only her feet as he had never looked beyond that.

“In the Aranaya Kand of Ramcharitmanas…it refers about noble ‘Jatayu’ when witnessed the crime of abduction of princes ‘Sita’, he came swiftly to protect princesses and consequently his wings were cut by Ravana,” the judgement stated.

Similarly, in Sabha Parv of Mahabharata, the reference is found about the appeal of queen Draupadi for justice to the Kuru Raj Sabha and she questioned the legality of her treatment of being dragged by Duhashana into the dice hall, the court further said. “The Indian women are capable, pave the way for them to excel, they only require the freedom and equality. The ‘glass ceiling’ will not prevent the Indian women as a roadblock for their advancement in the society, if equal opportunity and social protection be given to them.”

While acquitting Ramani earlier today, the court said that a woman has a right to put her grevience at any platform of her choice and even after decades.

The court further said that right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity. “Women cannot be punished for raising their voice against sexual abuse in the pretext of complaint of defamation.”

The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate also took consideration of the systemic abuse at workplace. He said that the time has come for the society to understand the implications of sexual harassment.

In 2017, Ramani wrote an article for Vogue where she described her ordeal of being sexually harassed by a former boss during her job interview for his publication.

One year later, she revealed that the person alluded to as harasser in article was M.J. Akbar.

Akbar told the court that Ramani’s allegations were fictitious and cost him his stellar reputation. Priya Ramani, on the other hand, contested these claims, pleaded truth as her defence and said that she made allegations in good faith, public interest, and for public good.

The judgement in the case is important as it sets a precedent for similar cases which arose from the discourse-changing #MeToo movement.