Right of Reputation vs Right to Life

Right of Reputation vs Right to Life


  • Recently, Delhi Court said that the right of reputation cannot and will not be protected at the cost of the right to have a dignified life.
  • This verdict came in the case of a defamation suit filed by M J Akbar on Priya Ramani for accusing him of sexual misconduct and harassment, dated decades ago.


Article 21: 

  • It protects the individual’s life and personal liberty. No one can be deprived of his/her life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.


  • In the current scenario, women are often being questioned for the timing and the platform they choose to talk about their past experiences where they had been wronged.
  • This delay, often considered by society as opportunistic and ill-intended.
  • Several lawsuits have been filed in the garb of this logic and to claim that one’s reputation gets tarnished by such revelations.
  • The main contention as the Court observed is that such offenses happen mostly behind closed doors and under a wide spectrum of circumstances. Especially then, it is harsh to question the timing of the revelation. 
Key Judgements related to Right of Life:

    • Khark Singh vs the State of UP: The SC observed that the term “life” is much more than a mere animal existence.
    • Suni Batra vs Delhi administration: The SC said that the meaning of life has to be read in the context of a ‘healthy life”.
  • Maneka Gandhi vs the Union of India: The SC laid the foundation that the right to live is not merely a physical/natural  right but comprises within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.
  • Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India: The top court added that the right to life must be free from exploitation and it has to be read with Article 39, 41, and 42 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India: In this judgement the court said that not providing the minimum wage is also a violation of the Right to Life.
  • Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan: In this landmark judgement, the Court said that sexual harassment of a working woman at her work as measuring to the violation of rights of gender equality and rights to life and liberty which is a clear encroachment of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

Vishakha Guidelines:

  • In the landmark judgement, the Court also characterised sexual harassment as any physical touch or conduct, any distasteful taunt or misbehaviour, showing of pornography and asking for any kind of sexual consideration.
  • Any such act will be informed, produced and circulated at work place.
  • A complaint committee must be put in charge to look after the grievances.
  • Third party NGOs may be involved, and awareness about what and how, must be spread.
  • After a long haul of 17 years, the govt., finally enacted the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 based on the guidelines.
  • The Act even widened the scope of the law by adding the term ‘aggrieved women’ and defining it to be inclusive the same way it defines ‘workplace’.


  • There is no ambiguity that the Vishakha Guidelines, the enactment of the law in 2013, and the proclamation of the Delhi Judge on the matter are welcome steps but the elimination of the culture of sexual harassment at workplaces is still a long way away and it, among other things, requires discarding the stigma that is correlated with the victims of such brazen actions.

(The Indian Express)

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