Minister of State for External Affairs and former editor MJ Akbar said on Wednesday that he was stepping down from his post after multiple women accused him of sexually harassing them while he was a journalist.
In the statement announcing his resignation, Akbar 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."
Akbar's resignation comes a day after 20 women journalists who worked with him wrote a statement in support of Priya Ramani against whom Akbar had filed a defamation plea.
The women had said in their statement:
When Ms. Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr. Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.
Ms. Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider 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.
Ramani, one of the first women to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment, said that she an other women felt "vindicated" by Akbar's resignation.
In his defamation suit against Ramani, Akbar had said that "while admitting that the Complainant has never done anything to her, the accused has intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated, and salacious imputations to harm the reputation of the Complainant."
Akbar said that the "scandalous allegations leveled" by Ramani were "ex facie defamatory and have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation ...in his social circles and on the political stage, established after years of toil and hard work." The defamation plea said it also ruined Akbar's "personal reputation of in the community, friends, family and colleagues, thereby causing him irreparable loss and tremendous distress."
Ramani had written an article in Vogue IN 2017 titled To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, where she recounted her first experience of workplace harassment. This was when the #MeToo movement was taking place in the United States last year.
Ramani hadn't named anyone in her account, but last week, she said on Twitter that she was referring to Akbar as the editor who interviewed her in his hotel room.
Akbar, still a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, was the founding editor of The Telegraph, launched The Asian Age and has worked in several other media organisations.