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Indian minister in #MeToo storm quits

18 October 2018

M J Akbar's criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago, is scheduled to come up for hearing today in the Patiala House court.

In a statement posted on his Twitter handle, Mr Akbar said, since he has made a decision to seek justice in the court of law in his personal capacity, he deems it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against him.

Akbar maintained a low profile after joining India's Ministry of External Affairs in July 2016 as its junior minister, representing India overseas at multinational conferences. He said he was "deeply grateful" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior Minister Sushma Swaraj for "the opportunity they gave me to serve the country".

Meanwhile, the additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal will hear the criminal defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani tomorrow.

We earnestly request you, as the first citizen of our country, to advise the Government of India to seek the resignation of Shri Akbar, failing which it should recommend his removal from the Union Council of Ministers.

On Sunday, upon his return from his Africa tour, Akbar had accused the women journalists of employing "slander and malice" to target him.

Ramani's accusation unleashed a flood of pent-up rage, prompting other women who had worked with Akbar to speak up.

BJP spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Meenakshi Lekhi said: "The allegations are personal and the party would not want to get embroiled, specially when the Modi government has done a lot for women's empowerment".

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. Pressure mounted on Mr Akbar to resign after as many as 20 women journalists signed a petition speaking of the "culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation" that Mr Akbar had "engendered and presided over". "When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do" anything.'", Akbar said.

When his party swept national elections in 2014, he promised economic growth and social progression for all and more women-centric welfare programs.

If more women entered the workplace, India could increase its gross domestic product by 60 per cent or $US2.9 trillion ($4 trillion) by 2025, according to a 2015 study by McKinsey Global Institute. "The resignation of M.J. Akbar is a vindication of the power of truth even if it began with one fearless person speaking up", she tweeted.

A senior minister spoke to The Indian Express last week, underlining that the government had nothing to do with the allegations against him as they pertained to the period before he had joined the party or had become a minister.

Other women in media have alleged that Akbar interviewed job candidates in hotel rooms at night; groped, massaged and forcibly kissed young interns and employees; and offered young women choice out-of-town postings so that he could go visit them there.

In his complaint, Akbar has stated that Ramani "resorted to a series of maliciously fabricated allegations, which she is diabolically and viciously spreading using media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the Complainant is being circulated in a motivated manner and for the fulfillment of an agenda".

Indian minister in #MeToo storm quits