#MeToo Allegations: Editors' Guild Asks MJ Akbar to Drop Defamation Case

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The Editors Guild of India on Thursday hoped that former Union Minister M.J. Akbar will withdraw his criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first female journalist to accuse him of sexual harassment.

The senior lawyer referred to the sequence of events and said that Akbar has resigned from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs due to these allegations and this showed the extent of damage caused to his reputation.

An Indian minister at the centre of a #MeToo storm announced his resignation on Wednesday while insisting the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by almost two dozen women were false.

On Wednesday, Akbar's lawyer Sandeep Kapur of law firm Karanjawala and Co said the legal battle would commence from Thursday and the veteran journalist-turned-politician would press for the prosecution of scribe Priya Ramani against whom he filed the defamation complaint when he was the minister.

Hours after returning home, Akbar had termed the allegations levelled against him by several women as "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them. Several of them claimed that he had sexually harassed them, while others claimed to have witnessed it.

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Meanwhile, journalist Abhisar Sharma has taken to to social media to allege that the Prime Minister's Office had sensationally shot down the idea proposed by Maneka Gandhi to form a committee of retired judicial officers to address the complaints of sexual harassment.

The Asian Age, the daily Akbar started and where most of the alleged harassment took place, reports the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership was getting uneasy over the barrage of accusations.

On Monday, he filed a defamation case against Ramani.

In a country where patriarchy has deep roots and women are not encouraged to speak out, women activists said Mr Akbar's resignation sent a strong message.

Minutes after news of Akbar's resignation broke, Ramani tweeted: "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation".

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Adige said the women's testimonies in these cases should be given a lot of consideration and the witnesses and their identities should be protected.

Pressure on Akbar mounted this week as fresh accounts of harassment emerged. Without identifying Akbar, she detailed alleged unwarranted advances made by him 20 years ago when she was 23 years of age. "Those who have spoken against Akbar have done so at great risk to personal and professional lives. truth and the absolute truth are my only defence", Priya Ramani had said.

The hallowed world of Indian cricket has also not been spared, with the chief of India's powerful cricket board, Rahul Johri, on Friday given a week to explain allegations of sexual harassment. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval first meeting Akbar and then sharing the outcome with party president Amit Shah were part of the developments that led to the resignation on Wednesday. "For example, a man complementing a woman doesn't need to be discussed under the #MeToo movement".

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