Delhi HC on Sexual Harassment – UPSC GS1

  • Delhi High Court has acquitted a former journalist in a defamation case filed by a former Union minister.
  • In this case, a journalist initially made allegations of sexual harassment against the former Union Minister. In turn, a criminal defamation case was filed in Delhi High Court against the journalist by Union Minister. However, Delhi High Court acquitted the journalist of the Criminal Defamation charges in its very recent verdict.
What is the law for Defamation?
  • Defamation – The act of communicating false statements, spoken or published intentionally with the aim to damage someone’s reputation.
  • Punishment Under section 500 of the IPC – Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both.
Why the Journalist was acquitted in a defamation case?
The law acknowledges that a person’s reputation cannot be used as a defense against their own bad behavior. Thus, Section 499 of the IPC prescribes several exceptions to claims of defamation. Further, the court held two important observations.
  • The actions of a journalist are not defamation. Instead, it is the attribution of truth. Such attribution will not fall under defamation.
  • The journalist made such actions in order to make good for the public (Public good). The Act of public good also not fall under defamation.
Court’s observation-
  • Women cannot be punished for raising their voices against sexual harassment.
  • A woman has a right to put her grievance on any platform of her choice, even after years and decades.  Because, Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 were not available at the time of sexual harassment
  • Only because women are not able to provide evidence, Women’s testimonies on sexual harassment cannot be dismissed as false or defamatory.
  • The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of a woman’s dignity guaranteed under Article 21.
Way forward
  • This historic decision has set an example for women to speak up against sexual harassment regardless of time.
  • The verdict was also seen as a huge moral victory for the #MeToo movement.
  • Further, The verdict will help to prevent the unethical use of defamation law.
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