From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Criminal Defamation
Mains level : Women safety issues
The Delhi High Court has dismissed former Union Ministers’ criminal defamation complaint against a famous journalist over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.
What is the #MeToo Movement?
- The #MeToo movement, with variations of related local or international names, is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment towards women, where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.
- The phrase “Me Too” was initially used in this context on social media in 2006, on Myspace, by sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke in the US.
- It is aimed at demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
You must know this!
The Vishaka Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
What did the court say?
- Women have the right to put their grievances at any platform of their choice and even after decades.
- The court also rejected the argument that the former union minister was a man of a stellar reputation.
What is the case?
- The former minister had filed a criminal defamation case against the person in October 2018 since she did not produce any proof.
- The criminal case was initiated to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassments.
Legal backing of the acquittal
- Criminal defamation is defined in Section 499 of the IPC as making or publishing any imputation about a person intending to harm, or knowing it will harm the reputation of a person.
- Any statement or article criticizing a person or accusing them of any sort of problematic behaviour will obviously lower their reputation.
- Hence this is always emphasised in legal notices and complaints to courts alleging defamation.
- However, the law recognizes that a person’s reputation can’t be a shield against their own bad behaviour and that there can be various circumstances when outing this bad behaviour is in the public interest.
- This is why Section 499 of the IPC also prescribes several exceptions to claims of defamation.
Is it a win for the survivors?
- It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that a corresponding criminal case for sexual harassment against the man would be successful.
- This is because the allegations of harassment would have to be proved against the man beyond all reasonable doubt.
- Therefore even though the present defence of truth was accepted by Delhi HC, this would not guarantee that the former minister would be convicted, as the standard of proof is different.
- This judgement will set an example for the reluctant or other ousted women who are willing to revisit the cases of sexual misconduct against them.