The defamation case by former union minister MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani, the first woman journalist to accuse him of sexual harassment, will be heard in a court in Delhi today. Mr Akbar had sued Ms Ramani on Monday, accusing her of “intentionally putting forward malicious, fabricated and salacious” allegations to harm his goodwill and reputation.
The editor-turned-politician, who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, stepped down as Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday evening, saying he will challenge the accusations against him.
“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,” said a statement by Mr Akbar, the most high profile person to exit his job in a growing #MeToo movement in India.
The former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age was named by Ms Ramani in a tweet on October 8. She said MJ Akbar was the man she had written about in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US set off an avalanche of #MeToo allegations.
After Ms Ramani named him, more women posted stories against Mr Akbar.
Ms Ramani, ready to fight the case, said on Wednesday evening, “As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court.”
Nineteen journalists had come out in her support on Tuesday evening, saying she was not alone and that they would testify in court against Mr Akbar.
67-year-old Mr Akbar, who became junior foreign minister two years ago, is the first in the BJP-led government to quit over an allegation.
Top sources in the government said the decision to step down was Mr Akbar’s and he will remain in the BJP. “This will not set a precedent,” the sources said.
Mr Akbar was earlier seen to have decided to ignore demands for his resignation after being called out by women who had either worked with him or had brief encounters during his days as editor of several newspapers. “Accusations without evidence have become a viral fever,” he said after returning from a foreign trip on Sunday.
The #MeToo movement, which began in the US more than a year ago in response to accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in the entertainment industry, gained traction in India last month after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the sets of a film in 2008.
Since then, several men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.