A group of women journalists has written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking them to sack Union Minister MJ Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment by nearly a dozen women.
The Network of Women in Media in India or NWMI also requested the Ministry of External Affairs, where Mr Akbar is Minister of State, to make him step down from office till an independent investigation is complete.
"We are extremely concerned that he continues to be a Minister even as he pursues whatever legal action he plans. You will agree that this is highly unethical and improper and will cast a cloud over any investigation into his alleged misdeeds, besides undermining the independence, justice and fair play that any citizen can expect from such proceedings," NWMI said in its letters to the President and the Prime Minister on Monday.
Mr Akbar has filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sex harassment after the #MeToo movement started gaining traction in India.
The NWMI said the defamation case is "a clear attempt to bully, intimidate and silence those bringing to light systemic abuse of women by men in powerful positions".
"It is designed to push women back into silent compliance and will silence the voices of the many who have not yet spoken up," the NWMI said.
The NWMI said the government should support women in their struggle for justice, adding External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should "take workplace harassment seriously and not encourage intimidatory tactics against women who have complained".
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