File photo of MJ Akbar speaking in the Rajya Sabha. (Source: PTI)

MJ Akbar Resigns To Contest #MeToo Allegations In Court

Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar stepped down today following a spate of allegations of sexual harassment during his days as editor of several publications.

In a brief statement, Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his personal capacity.

“I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity,” Akbar said. “I have, therefore, tendered my resignation...”

Akbar’s criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago, is scheduled for hearing tomorrow in the Patiala House court.

His lawyer Sandeep Kapur said that the private criminal defamation case will be heard by additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal. The lawyer also forwarded the brief resignation letter of Akbar, who was associated with several media houses in the past.

Kapur said since the matter is subjudice, the law will take its own course. "Since we have already filed the defamation case, we will pursue it in the court."

Ramani expressed her readiness to fight the defamation allegations. "Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he (Akbar) seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment.”

Akbar’s plea had listed alleged defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media and also referred to his “long and illustrious” career as a journalist while terming the allegations of Ramani a “figment of her imagination”.

“Whilst it is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously serious allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spreading in media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the complainant (Akbar) is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfilment of an agenda,” it alleged.

Also read: Woman Compiling MeToo Names Says They’re the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Akbar claimed that the woman journalist, while putting forward the allegations relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, “intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious imputations to harm the reputation of the complainant”.

“The conduct of the accused person, of not taking any action before any authority, qua the alleged incident against the complainant also clearly belies the sanctity of the article and allegations made by the accused person, which evidently goes on to prove that the said defamatory articles are only a figment of her imagination,” it said.

Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code provides for the sentence for the offence of defamation and an accused may be awarded a two-year jail term or fine or both in the event of conviction. Akbar’s name had cropped up in the social media campaign #Metoo against alleged sexual harassment when he was in Nigeria.

Also read: As MJ Akbar Brazens Out #MeToo Allegations, Modi Government Stays Mum