MJ Akbar Resigns Over #MeToo Charges, His Defamation Case to be Heard Today
When the allegations first surfaced, Akbar denied all such claims of sexual misconduct and termed them as "false, fabricated and spiced up".
New Delhi: Having brazened out the #MeToo storm at first, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar tendered his resignation on Wednesday amid growing chorus for his resignation after scores of women levelled allegations of sexual misconduct on his part during his previous role as newspaper editor.
"Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have therefore tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of External Affairs," said Akbar in a statement.
Later in the day, a communique from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignation of MJ Akbar from the union council of ministers with immediate effect.
Welcoming Akbar's resignation, Priya Ramani, who was the first to accuse him of sexual harassment on social media, said she looked forward to the day when she would also get justice in court.
"As women, we feel vindicated by Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court," she said
Sources say, there was discussion in the BJP on the allegations faced by Akbar this morning and the party was a little apprehensive of the fall out from the controversy.
Reacting to Akbar's resignation, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale said,"Opposition was asking him to resign on moral grounds. This is a right decision taken by him. The allegations on him should be properly investigated."
The Opposition kept up the pressure on Akbar to resign ever since the allegations surfaced.
Ever since the controversy broke, Akbar has denied all such claims of sexual misconduct and termed them as "false, fabricated and spiced up". He questioned the timing of complaints months before the Lok Sabha polls, and vowed legal action.
Thereafter, he filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani.
In his complaint, filed in the court of chief metropolitan magistrate Deepak Sherawat at the Patiala House courts in Delhi, Akbar sought Ramani’s prosecution for “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defaming” him.
Ramani has vowed to fight back and called the case just an intimidation tactic. Ramani said she wished to register her protest against Akbar’s statement, which “pays no heed to the trauma and fear of survivors”.
Neither Akbar nor his lawyers explained why he had chosen to prosecute only Ramani and not several others who have spoken out publicly, with allegations that he had behaved inappropriately with them and others in the past few decades at publications he edited.
The issue snowballed subsequently when on Tuesday, 20 women journalists came together in solidarity with journalist Priya Ramani. The journalists, who have worked under Akbar, have urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment by the minister and others have been a witness to it.
"Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment," the journalists said in the joint statement undersigned by them.
Akbar's criminal defamation suit against Ramani comes up in a Delhi court on Thursday.
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