Minister of State MJ Akbar resigns over #MeToo allegations

New Delhi: Union Minister MJ Akbar, accused by multiple women of sex harassment in a tidal wave of #MeToo stories shared on social media, has resigned. Just two days ago, Mr Akbar had sued one of his 20 accusers for defamation, accusing her of “intentionally making fabricated allegations” to harm his reputation.

Announcing his resignation, Akbar referred to his lawsuit.

“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,” he said in a statement.

On Sunday, Akbar was widely seen to have decided to ignore calls for his resignation after being called out by women who had worked with him or had brief encounters during his days as an editor. “Accusations without evidence have become a viral fever,” he said after returning from a foreign trip.

The government did not react officially, but sources said the allegations had nothing to do with it.

On Monday, Akbar sued Priya Ramani, the first woman to name him, and accused her of vested interests in maligning his reputation on the basis of “wholly and completely false, frivolous, and unjustifiable and scandalous grounds.”

Priya Ramani said she would fight the case. But 19 other journalists said she was not alone, that they would testify in court against Mr Akbar.

“What Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm to many women over the years. He himself, in the meanwhile, continues to enjoy enormous power and privilege as minister and Member of Parliament,” the journalists’ statement said.