As more women came out and accused M J Akbar of sexually harassing them amid the #MeToo movement, the Union Minister on Wednesday resigned from his post of Minister of State External Affairs.
His resignation comes just two days after he had sued one of his 20 accusers for defamation, accusing her of “intentionally making fabricated allegations” to harm his reputation.Amid the growing #MeToo movement, MJ Akbar becomes the most high profile person to quit his job following sexual harassment allegations.
“Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from my office and challenge false accusation levied against me, also in a personal capacity,” Akbar said in his statement.
“I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the external Affair Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted his resignation, news agency PTI reported quoting official sources.
According to sources, there was a view in the government that the minister should fight the case in his personal capacity and not as a Union minister, PTI further said.
The resignation of the editor-turned-politician, who has been accused by multiple women of sexually harassing them, came a day ahead of hearing of a criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.
About 20 women have come forward to speak out their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar during his days as editor of several mainstream publications in the last fortnight. Following the allegations, opposition parties and various media organisations have been demanding his resignation.
Akbar, however, had denied all the allegations and also ignored earlier calls for his resignation. On Monday, he filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Priya Ramani alleging she “wilfully” and “maliciously” made imputations against him with the ulterior motive of maligning his reputation and political standing.
MJ Akbar’s resignation was welcomed by many complainants as well as several women activists and political parties.
On Tuesday, 20 women journalists who have worked with ‘The Asian Age’ newspaper, have come out in support of their colleague Ramani, said a joint statement issued by them.
The journalists 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.
The #MeToo movement, which spread virally last year following sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, attempts to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It gained momentum in India last month after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the sets of a film in 2008.