When acquitting Priya Ramani in the defamation case against politician and former journalist M.J. Akbar, Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey mentioned, “Society must understand the impact of sexual abuse and harassment on its victims. The woman has the right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.”
Ostensibly, there is a ray of hope that has permeated to the women in Bollywood, who have also stood up against their alleged abusers, albeit after many years.
Writer–director Vinta Nanda, who had named actor Alok Nath many years after he’d abused her, feels that the decision is like a shot of adrenaline.
“This judgement is landmark. I believe it has infused life back into the #MeToo movement, which had very conveniently been written off by many. My own experience tells me that many of the survivors who had spoken during the movement had to further face the anger of those who were named and shamed, as also of many who were afraid that their transgressions would be revealed as well. This judgement will give confidence and courage to women at large to speak out,” she says.
A welcome precedent
Taapsee Pannu, who has been the poster girl for women’s issues on celluloid, says, “This did bring a ray of hope that somewhere something is keeping our hope in righteousness alive.”
Actress Richa Chadda, who has also been vocal about the issue, is happy that the perpetrator was shown his place after he filed a defamation case.“This is a big deal for the #MeToo case in India and I welcome the judgement of the Honourable Court. Not every woman has the spine, wherewithal and means; hence, Priya Ramani’s acquittal is a victory for every woman. It’s a shame, though, that the aggressor was so remorseless that he dragged the victim of sexual harassment to court by weaponing defamation. Those thoughtless, misogynist lawyers from among the 97 hired by the predator, giggled and tittered as journalist Ghazala Wahab presented her testimony for Ms Ramani.
They wanted to demoralise her and undermine her trauma. (I am) personally glad that these bunch of losers lost. This sets a great precedent as well,” Richa said.
Half the battle won
However, everyone agrees that complete justice is still a distant dream. Writer and director Apurva Asrani, has always maintained faith in the country’s justice system. “Priya Ramani’s acquittal is a relief for all women who found the courage to speak against their abusers. But it is only half the battle won,” he says.
And that is something Vinta Nanda also agrees to. “The decision will certainly put fear in misogynist and predators. It’s a very important curve that the movement has taken. However, there’s a long way to go,” says Vinta.
Similarly, despite the rejoicing around the recent verdict, Hindi and South-Indian actress Payal Ghosh, who has filed a case against filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, believes that only half the justice has been served. “It can’t be called a stepping stone. It was a woman who had come out with her truth after years and here we are rejoicing that she has been acquitted!” she says pointedly.
Must fight it out
Advocate Adnan Shaikh, who often represents many Bollywood stars in various cases, says that victory will depend on the one who wants to take the battle to the end. “The fact that it took Priya two years to finish a case that was possibly filed to break her spirit and make her submit and surrender to a person [who] she [was] abused [by], is not a complete victory because Priya had the guts and grit to pursue both her cases. Many others still don’t get this kind of a result, and [they] give up. Let us hope that Priya’s victory becomes a judgement each and every woman fighting for her self-respect can rely upon and that this victory can be hailed as a true victory of all women everywhere,” he elaborates.
But hopes and optimism apart, former actress and social-media activist, Andria D Souza, who had also filed a physical abuse case against a CEO of a clothing company headed by a superstar actor, has become a bit of a naysayer after her case was dismissed. She feels the system isn’t above board.
“My case got dismissed. They simply said ‘no clarity in the case’. My witness was not called to question. Neither my medical records of losing my hearing due to the accused hitting me, nor my hearing aid held any weightage to sustain justice from the court. Some people are lucky they fight back and some like me lose hope and faith in the judicial system. Not to forget how easily Tanushree’s case also led to no justice. We still live in a man’s world,” she adds cynically.
Congrats Priya Ramani
Your determination in the face of adversity and legal harassment for two years by a wicked and vindictive man has won you the respect of the whole nation. Salutations to senior advocate Rebecca John! 97:1 The odds were against you Rebecca from the start but your conviction on your client, is truly praiseworthy!!
Thank you justice ACMM Ravindra Kumar Pandey for the landmark verdict. God bless you and your family. I believe this now becomes a reference case for all future defamation cases related to #MeToo in India and worldwide. Bring it on ladies... even the Indian courts have your back now!
— Tanushree Dutta, actress
This judgement has infused life back into the #MeToo movement. My own experience tells me that many of the survivors who had spoken during the movement had to further face the anger of those who were named and shamed, as also of many who were afraid that their transgressions would be revealed as well. This judgement will give confidence and courage to women at large to speak out.
— Vinita Nanda
The fact that it took Priya two years to finish a case that was possibly filed to break her spirit and make her submit and surrender to a person who she was abused by, is not a complete victory because Priya had the guts and grit to pursue both her cases. Many others still don’t get this kind of a result, and they give up. Let’s hope Priya’s victory becomes a judgement every woman fighting for her self-respect can rely upon.”
— Adnan Shaikh, Advocate