Editors Guild asks M J Akbar to withdraw defamation case against journalist

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India's burgeoning #MeToo movement is claiming victory following junior Foreign Minister M.J. Akbar's resignation after being accused of sexual harassment.

RSS sources said senior functionary Dattatreya Hosable's tweet seven days ago was a clear message to the government that Akbar had to go. "Now that he has resigned, it is Akbar vs Priya Ramani", she said insisting the former minister should withdraw the defamation case against Ramani.

Akbar, through his counsel, told the court that Ramani's defamatory statements had damaged his image, lowering his esteem in the eyes of the public.

Veteran editor and former union minister MJ Akbar shot off his resignation letter to the Prime Minister's Office and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj around 4 PM on Wednesday.

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Ms Ramani wrote an article titled "To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world" past year for Vogue India in which she recounted her experience working with an editor who had interviewed her for the job in a hotel room and asked her to sit on the bed. "I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court".

"Since I have made a decision 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 in a personal capacity", the news agency ANI, a Reuters partner, quoted Akbar as saying in a statement.

"We hope that Mr. Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants". A Delhi court hearing the case agreed that there is merit in the arguments and a defamation case can be heard.

Akbar, who was the editor of newspapers such as the Telegraph and the Asian Age, is the first significant political leader to be hit by India's #MeToo movement. With two more women coming out - after the case was filed - with sordid tales of their experiences of being sexually harassed by Akbar, the party realised that this was not going to end well.

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Mr Akbar has accused Ms Ramani of "intentionally putting forward malicious, fabricated and salacious" allegations to harm his reputation.

Former Mint Lounge editor, Priya Ramani was the first to accuse Akbar - who has now been accused by more than 15 women - of sexual harassment via a tweet.

For the BJP, holding on to Akbar would have served no objective given his lack of mass-based appeal.

The number of those who joined the sexual harassment bandwagon has swelled in the last few days, making the challenge hard to withstand in an environment in which women power has touched huge proportions, especially among the educated middle class. Ramani named Akbar as the editor she had alluded to in an article in the Vogue magazine on sexual harassment at the workplace in October 2017. Also, he has resigned from his post as Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday. India's opposition Congress Party had earlier called for Akbar's resignation. It is a sad commentary on our respect for the rule of law that the newspaper organisations concerned had not put in place mechanisms to implement the Vishakha Guidelines, which would have provided an avenue for redressal to women who felt they were the victims of sexual harassment.

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