Mea Culpa—finally MJ Akbar, the minister named by twenty women from his Asian Age newspaper as sexual offender at the workplace—has handed in his papers.
New Delhi., Oct. 17, 2018: It took twenty women’s combined efforts to get him to quit. Finally Minister of State for External Affairs in the Modi Government has resigned today, following demand for his resignation from all quarters as story after story recounted his tales of impropriety from women who had worked under him.
While Akbar has filed a defamation case against one of the journalists Priya Ramani, hiring 97 lawyers to defend him, he has not as yet reacted to the others.
“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.
According to TIO’s sources pressure from within the BJP on the allegations faced by Akbar came to a head leading to his resignation as the party was a little apprehensive of the fall-out from the controversy.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale , reacting to Akbar’s resignation, 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.”
Initially, on his return from his tour of Nigeria, Akbar had dismissed the allegations painting him as a serial sexual offender and 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 had filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to accuse him of sexual harassment on social media.
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 have offered any explanationed 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.
On Tuesday, 20 women journalists came together in solidarity with journalist Priya Ramani. All of these have worked under Akbar and 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.