#MeToo: Why did MJ Akbar step down as minister after putting up a brave front? (PTI Photo)
New Delhi :
Union Minister MJ Akbar, who was facing sexual harassment allegations by several women as part of the #MeToo movement, announced his resignation on Wednesday as Minister of State for External Affairs. But he did put up a brave front as he was accused of sexual harassment as the #MeToo storm hit the entertainment and media industries. He issued a long statement denying all charges of sexual harassment thrown at him. He even filed a defamation case against one of the accusers - Priya Ramani on Tuesday. So why did Akbar resign?
Amid speculation over his next move, it was expected that eventually Akbar, with more and more women standing up with charges against, would step down. As many as 20 women had alleged sexual harassment by him and had submitted a petition against him. The resignation came after the latest accusation being made by another journalist woman, Tushita Patel, who alleged that Akbar had kissed her forcibly and once greeted her dressed only in his "underwear".
Read More | #MeToo: Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over sexual harassment allegations by 20 women
On Monday, several media groups, including the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC), Press Club of India, Press Association and the South Asian Women in Media, had issued a joint statement, demanding an "impartial probe" into all allegations of sexual misconduct against the minister and said he should step down from his post till such an investigation is completed. They said in the statement that Akbar is a "senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him".
So, was Akbar forced to quit?
In a statement issued to the press on Wednesday, Akbar said that he deemed it "appropriate" to step down now. He, however, refused to resign and even filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, a senior journalist and one of the women who accused the minister of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
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"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 levelled against me...," he said in a statement released through news agency ANI.
Patiala House Court in Delhi will hear Akbar's criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani on Thursday. Ramani had accused the minister of sexual misconduct. Reacting to her allegations, Akbar had then accused her of “wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and malaciously” defaming him and sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.
“Ms Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not, however, name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a tweet: “Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.”
“If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story? There is no story. This was admitted at the very inception. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn’t do anything...,” Akbar had said in the statement he issued on October 14.
However, as cornered by many, Akbar resigned.
On October 12, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said Akbar will have to surrender if charges of sexual harassment against him are found to be true.
“But it’s a serious factor as no one has the right to violate any girl’s modesty. Likewise, MJ Akbar too isn’t above regulation of this land,” Athawale had said.