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As journalist Priya Ramani was acquitted in a defamation case filed by MJ Akbar, whom she had accused on social media of sexual harassment, Twitter deal with @penpencildraw put it succinctly: “In landmark judgment Indian court docket doesn’t punish sexual harassment survivor”.
The court docket emphasised that the correct to fame couldn’t be protected at the price of a girl’s proper to life and dignity, and that she had a proper to place her grievance on “any platform of her choice” and “even after decades”.
The legislation on sexual harassment within the office has clearly outlined closing dates for complaints. They must be filed inside three months after the final incident, though the sexual harassment committee has the leeway to make a particular provision and prolong this, says lawyer Sunieta Ojha. The widespread concern that this judgment will permit stale claims to be raked up is baseless, she says. The CrPC additionally lets courts prolong the statute of limitations within the pursuits of justice. Sexual harassment additionally comes below the IPC, the place there is no such thing as a statute of limitations, so a case can technically be introduced at any level. However, this has a dim probability of success given the problem of offering proof in these circumstances, she says.
Time-barring complaints of sexual crimes can deter justice. “In many rape or Pocso circumstances, our concern is to get the criticism in quickly, as a result of there’s a golden hour of proof, and the path can go chilly after an extended interval. But to get to the trial takes such a very long time that this will occur anyway,” says lawyer Karuna Nundy. What’s extra, it’s basic to complain late in such circumstances, she says.
“Our courts need to catch up with the idea that when people are harassed, it frequently takes them time to gather their cognitive, emotional and social resources,” she says In this case although, Ramani didn’t search to prosecute Akbar for sexual harassment. She spoke her reality on social media, together with a cascade of testimony from different girls in the course of the #MeToo motion. It was Akbar who sued her for defamation, and “the effect was to chill the voices of the women speaking about their experience, to show how sexual harassment was rampant in every field,” says Ojha. Remember, the occasion described by Ramani came about at a time when there have been no Vishakha pointers on safety towards sexual harassment. The legislation was created 17 years later, in 2013. She couldn’t have sought treatment even when she wished to.
Women are sometimes compelled to remain quiet about sexual harassment as they concern retaliation, dropping their jobs or different types of harassment, says lawyer Vrinda Grover. The judgment alerts that this concern can’t be approached in a straitjacketed method of guidelines and technicalities. It focuses on “whether the system provided the occasion to speak, or not,” she says.
It doesn’t additional silence girls or say they can’t converse out within the public sphere about sexual harassment, simply because time has elapsed, says feminist activist Kavita Krishnan. “It will assure women that if they speak up, the accused is less likely to use defamation as a weapon to silence, now that there is a precedent,” she says.
Despite the media consideration and assist that Ramani received, Krishnan isn’t overly optimistic. Social media consideration is fickle, circumstances of sexual misconduct proceed to fall by way of, she says. It takes sustained feminist mobilisation and authorized intervention, grassroots activism, for issues to alter.


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