India’s junior Foreign Minister Mobashar Jawed Akbar resigned Wednesday after allegations of sexual harassment and assault were made by several women.
“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 the false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity,” Akbar said, quoted by ANI, in a statement.
“I have therefore tendered my resignation from the office of minister of state for external affairs. I am deeply grateful to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the external affairs minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country.”
19 female journalists, who have worked with the Asian Age newspaper, while Akbar was an editor, came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani, the first person to accuse him of misconduct.
Akbar is considered one of India's most influential publishers, having worked for several English-language newspapers in India, including The Telegraph and The Asian Age.
Former Mint Lounge editor Priya Ramani wrote about her experience in a Vogue India article in October 2017 where she called out a ‘celebrity editor’ without naming him. She also wrote in detail about his inappropriate behavior with female journalists
She described how Akbar set up interviews with journalists in hotel rooms “with drinks at hand”. On Oct. 8, Ramani publicly identified Akbar as the central character of her piece.
"Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honorable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment," the journalists said in the jointly signed statement.
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.'
Akbar has, however, denied all allegations and filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Priya Ramani Monday when he returned from an overseas trip.
The accused also attempted intimidation by hiring one of the most expensive law firms in the country.
Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur of the law firm Karanjawala & Co said that the private criminal defamation case will be heard Thursday before chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal.