MJ Akbar sues Priya Ramani for criminal defamation over sexual harassment allegations

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi

Despite the nationwide call for his resignation, MJ Akbar, who has received almost a dozen allegations, responded by hiring a battery of 97 lawyers to file a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first journalist to accuse him of sexual harassment.

And more than a dozen female journalists have accused veteran editor and current government minister M.J. Akbar of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment.

A receptionist at Karanjawala & Co, the law firm handling Akbar's lawsuit, confirmed a suit had been filed, but said all lawyers involved with the case were now tied up in court.

In his statement later, Akbar had made a decision to take legal action against those women, who had accused him of sexual misconduct during his time as the editor of Asian Age and The Telegraph.

Replying to a volley of questions from reporters at the airport, the Minister said: "There will be a statement later on". "We are disappointed that Mr. Akbar did not choose to take this step instead of threatening the complainants with legal action". Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes, a community platform for women in the workforce, said the company's helpline for women's workplace issues is now getting double the number of calls every day with more than 100 calls exclusively about sexual harassment at the workplace. "You be the judge", Akbar said, referring to the elections to be held in five states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana-starting 12 November. Apart from Ramani, the other woman journalists to recount instances of Akbar's misconduct include Ghazala Wahab, Suparna Sharma, and Harinder Baweja.

"Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election?" he asked.

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Akbar is one of the highest profile figures so far to face accusations in India's burgeoning #MeToo movement.

A joint statement, signed by the Indian Women Press Corps, the Press Club of India, the Press Association and the South Asian Women in Media, said that sexual harassment at workplace was a worrisome reality and the organisations were deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media.

A placard lies on the floor as Indian journalists protest incidents of sexual assault and harassment, in New Delhi, Oct. 13, 2018.

One of India's biggest champions of women's rights and renowned Supreme Court lawyer, Karuna Nundy shares her views on why the ongoing #MeToo movement is a clarion call for our justice system, and throws light on the existing legal options available for women fighting sexual harassment.

Talking to the HuffPost India, the survivor, Majlie de Puy Kamp, claimed that she was 18 whereas Akbar was 55-year old at the time of incident.

Earlier, BJP Mahila Morcha chief in Madhya Pradesh, Lata Kelkar, stood in defence of MJ Akbar and claimed that the women journalists who have levelled charges against deputy foreign minister were not innocent.

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