M J Akbar, the MoS External Affairs, after returning from Africa, initially rejected the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him by several women as “false, fabricated and deeply distressing.
He later took the matter to court and filed a private criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.
The complaint against Ramani is scheduled to come up for hearing on 18th October 2018 in the Patiala House courts.
Its Women vs MJ Akbar now : Even a criminal case against Priya Ramani with a battery of lawyers failed to deter #MeToo storm. Rather, it backfired on M J Akbar.
Under pressure from his party, M J Akbar had to resign from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs.
“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 State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minster Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” Akbar said in his letter.
Issuing a statement on Twitter, Journalist Priya Ramani criticised MJ Akbar for trying to silence the survivors through “intimidation and harassment”. Ramani has said that she was ready to fight the defamation complaint filed in court. She expressed disappointment over minister’s statement, saying it paid no heed to the “trauma and fear of the survivors”.
“I am deeply disappointed that a Union minister should dismiss the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy,” Ramani said in her statement. “By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Akbar has made his stand clear: rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment,” she added.
Making strong remarks, Ramani said the truth will be her only defence against the minister. “Needless to say, I am ready to fight the allegations of defamation laid against me, truth and the absolute truth is my only defence,” Ramani said in her letter dated October 15. The journalist further added that it was disingenuous to question the victims at the moment.
Other Women’s Stories, Support.
The chorus of #MeToo allegations against MJ Akbar continues to grow with one more woman journalist coming forward with a story about him. The other woman — Tushita Patel — has come forward with a #MeToo account about MJ Akbar.
As the #MeToo movement gains ground, 19 other women journalists who have worked with ‘The Asian Age’ newspaper, came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani who has accused union minister MJ Akbar of sexual harassment, a joint statement issued by them said. The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against MJ 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 honorable 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.
The journalists have offered to crowd-fund Priya Ramani’s legal costs.Thus the battle lines have been drawn. Its women vs M J Akbar.