- MJ Akbar has sued Priya Ramani over accusations of sexual harassment
- He stepped down as Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday
- Mr Akbar is the most high profile person to exit his job
MJ Akbar's defamation case against one of the 20 women who have accused him of sexual harassment will be taken up by a court in Delhi today, a day after he resigned as union minister saying he would fight the allegations. Mr Akbar has sued journalist Priya Ramani, the first woman to name him in the growing #MeToo movement in India, accusing her of "intentionally putting forward malicious, fabricated and salacious" allegations to harm his reputation.
The editor-turned-politician has been called out by multiple women over the past few days. Resigning as Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday evening, he said: "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."
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.
Around 20 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.
The Editors Guild of India backed the women journalists who named Mr Akbar and said the journalist-turned-politician should withdraw the defamation case against Ms Ramani. "We hope that Mr Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants. While Mr Akbar is entitled to all legal instruments available to a citizen to seek vindication, it would be paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation," the Editors Guild said in a statement.
Ms Ramani said on Wednesday, "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court."
67-year-old Mr Akbar, who became junior foreign minister two years ago, is the most high profile person to exit his job as India catches up with the #MeToo campaign.
The 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.
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