President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday accepted MJ Akbar’s resignation as Minister of State in External Affairs a day ahead of the hearing of his criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani at Delhi’s Patiala House court.
Kovind accepted the resignation of Akbar from the Union Council of Ministers with immediate effect.
Akbar, who was in Nigeria when the sexual harassment allegations against him surfaced, said he would continue to fight the case in a personal capacity.
“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…,” he said.
Akbar is perhaps the first minister to resign following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
His resignation is also being seen as the biggest victory of the cathartic #MeToo movement, which started with a trickle in Bollywood with Tanushree Dutta’s accusations against actor Nana Patekar in the last week of September and opened the floodgates with women ‘outing’ directors, journalists, actors and others on social media.
Akbar’s intensely debated move comes after more than 16 women journalists spoke out over the last 10 days to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment and molestation during his years as the celebrated editor of several publications.
Ramani, who was the first to call him out by name for his allegedly predatory behaviour, said on Twitter, “As women, we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice. #MeToo.”
The defamation case filed two days ago led more women and some men too to come forward in their defence of Ramani and others. On Tuesday night, 20 journalists, who had worked at The Asian Age during Akbar’s tenure, issued a joint statement against him.
The Congress termed as ‘victory of truth’ the resignation of Akbar.
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said she saluted those women who stood on their charges against the minister bravely despite the “brazen” stance taken by the government.
“This resignation is a vindication of the power of truth. More strength to India’s women,” she said.
“I salute these women who stood their ground despite the brazen stance of the GoI, silence of the PM who speaks about women empowerment, the arrogant misuse of power by deploying a battery of lawyers against one woman and allowing the accused to continue in his role,” Chaturvedi said in a tweet.
Many journalists from multiple media platforms have come forward with their stories of harassment against the Minister of State for External Affairs under the social media campaign ‘#Metoo’ against sexual misconduct.