Union Minister M J Akbar resigns over #MeToo

Madhuri Adnal

New Delhi, Oct 17: Editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar on Wednesday resigned from his post of Minister of State External Affairs, amid reports of sexual harassment allegations against him by several of his former colleagues.

President Ram Nath Kovind Wednesday accepted the resignation of M J Akbar from the Union council of ministers on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

In a statement released through news agency ANI, the minister said he deemed it appropriate to step down and challenge the "false accusations" levelled against him also in a personal capacity.

"I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country," he said in the statement.

This came after 19 women journalists who have worked with The Asian Age came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani, who has accused the Union minister of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, Delhi's Patiala House Court on Tuesday, 16 October, listed the matter of the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani for 18 October.

Priya Ramani welcomed Akbar's exit. "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #MeToo," she said.

NCW Chief Rekha Sharma said,''It definitely took some time because some inquiry must be going on but finally they took the decision and that is what matters. I welcome this decision as I was looking forward to it.''

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."

Akbar, 67, has been named in multiple accounts that have surfaced in the #MeToo movement that started in India after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of harassment during a film shoot 10 years ago.

The minister had arrived from a foreign tour a day before and issued a statement trashing the #MeToo allegations and commenting: "Accusations without evidence has become a viral fever."

On Tuesday, MJ Akbar had filed a defamation suit which names only one of the multiple women who have accused him of sex harassment, but 20 women journalists have pledged to testify in court against him.

The journalists include Meenal Baghel, Manisha Pande, Tushita Patel, Kanika Gahlaut, Suparna Sharma, Ramola Talwar Badam, Hoihnu Hauzel, Aisha Khan, Reshmu Chakraborty and Kushalrani Gulab. A journalist from Deccan Chronicle, Christina Francis, has also signed the statement.

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