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A barrage of allegations of sexual harassment have been made by women journos against the journalist-turned-politician, he has sought legal remedy

With more and more women journalists coming out with horrid claims of how they were sexually harassed by him during their stints in newspapers that he helmed, journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar finally resigned as Union minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday (October 17).

The resignation came four days after Akbar categorically denied the allegations made against him by a score of women journalists, insinuating that they were politically motivated. He later decided to slap a criminal defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani, the case is expected to come up for hearing on Thursday (October 18) at Delhi’s Patiala House court, through the law firm of senior advocate Raian Karanjawala.

However, Akbar’s brazenness and tactics at intimidating his accusers by engaging one of the country’s most sought after legal firms that has a posse of 97 lawyers (all named in the vakalatnama of Akbar’s defamation suit), failed to prevent other women journalists from speaking out against him. On Tuesday 19 women journalists, including some who had previously spoken about their horrors with Akbar, expressed solidarity with Ramani and expressed their desire to join forces with her in her legal battle against the former editor. The statement of solidarity by these women journalists coincided with an account by Tushita Patel published by a news portal where Patel recalled incidents dating back to 1992 when Akbar had tried to forcibly kiss her twice and, on one occasion in Kolkata, called her to his hotel room where he opened the door to usher her in while wearing nothing except his underwear.

Despite more and more of such incidents coming into the public domain as part of the #MeToo campaign, the silence of the central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on charges leveled against its minister of state was being taken as the BJP’s unstinted support for Akbar and condoning his evident misdemeanor. Modi’s critics, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, were getting increasingly aggressive in seeking answers from the Premier and his BJP on why a minister with such grave allegations of sexual, moral and ethical misconduct was being allowed to stay on in office.

On Wednesday afternoon, Akbar issued a statement saying: “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.”

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