MJ Akbar: India minister quits after #MeToo allegations

Akbar on Monday sued Priya Ramani the first woman to name him for the sexual harassment and said that she was 'intentionally putting forward malicious fabricated and salacious' allegations to ruin his goodwill and reputation

MJ Akbar resigned from his post of Minister of State External Affairs on Wednesday.

Describing the resignation of MJ Akbar from the Union Cabinet over the allegation on sexual misconduct by a number of women, as "a result of persistent pressure put by women" and the "vindication of Congress party's unequivocal stand on the #MeToo campaign", the grand old party on Wednesday asked will Prime Minister Narendra Modi dare to speak up on the issue. The minister was earlier defiant and ignored demands seeking his resignation.

Meanwhile, Delhi's Patiala House court will begin the hearing in the criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.

Akbar is considered one of India's most influential publishers, having worked for several English-language newspapers in India, including The Telegraph and The Asian Age.

"Since I have made a decision 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 levelled against me".

Reacting to Mr Akbar's resignation, Ms Ramani tweeted that she had been "vindicated".

The Guild, consisting of top editors in the country, in a statement, also offered support for legal advice or assistance to all the women journalists who have complained against Akbar, in case he files cases against them too. The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists' courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.

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The BJP has tried to fashion itself as a champion of Indian women, arguing that policies to improve sanitation and switch to more efficient cooking fuels have disproportionately benefited them.

In his court filing, Akbar, 67, a former newspaper editor, said Ramani had "wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defamed him. She named Mr Akbar only in a tweet early this month.

The women who have accused Akbar of inappropriate behavior include journalists who are now in prominent roles in the media industry.

Akbar, however, has denied the allegations and on Monday filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani.

Over the next few days, three more women came on the record, detailing various allegations of harassment.

The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment by the minister and the others had been a witness to it.

The spark for India's #MeToo movement was lit by Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta, who named actor Nana Patekar for sexually harassing her during a film shoot.

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