#MeToo: After Akbar's Resignation on Modi’s Direction, All Eyes on Court Now
| Indian Observer Post - 18 Oct 2018

#MeToo: After Akbar's Resignation on Modi’s Direction, All Eyes on Court Now

By Onkareshwar Pandey

New Delhi, Oct 17, 2018: Ultimately M.J. Akbar had to resign. Not on his own wishes. Not because he accepted the #MeToo charges levelled against him. But to save the image of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government in the centre. And he did it on the advice of PM office only. PM Modi’s advice to M.J. Akbar was conveyed through the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The message from PMO was clear for Akbar. “I think, you must resign from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs,” said sources close to Akbar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled the rug from under the politician less than 24 hours short of the scheduled hearing of M.J. Akbar’s defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani by a magistrate’s court at Patiala House, Delhi. 

Amid mounting pressure on him and also the BJP leadership to act fast, on Sunday, Mr Akbar returned India from official tour to Nigeria and said he was being falsely charged in the multiple sexual harassment cases due to political reasons. Akbar filed criminal defamation proceedings against Ramani for alleging he sexually harassed employees, a claim that was then backed up by more than 20 other former employees of the newspaper editor-turned-politician.

'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 accusation levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I, therefore, tender my resignation from the office of MoS External Affairs.' Akbar said in a brief statement just three days after taking a defiance stance and that he would challenge the false accusations against him in court. 

Mr Akbar has slapped a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first journalist who publicly named and shamed the minister. The hearing in the defamation case is scheduled to come up for hearing on Thursday in the Patiala House court here.

According to sources, Akbar failed to satisfy the PMO about these allegations and couldn’t provide a clear picture of how many more women were likely to come forward as witnesses against him and what the content of their testimony might be — leaving the government open to a barrage of criticism. Thus, there was no alternative left for PM Modi to ask for his resignation.

According to BJP sources, before the meeting of NSA Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had also met the journalist-turned-politician - who remained defiant on the charges against him and had said on Sunday that "lies do not have legs".

His resignation on Wednesday afternoon came as his “victims” upped their ante, determination and spine to take the battle to him, rather than sulking away.

Reacting to Mr Akbar's resignation, journalist Priya Ramani tweeted: "As women, we feel vindicated. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court".

“What Mr. Akbar has demonstrated through his legal action is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm too many women over the years,” said the women journalists collective in a statement on Tuesday. They also expressed their determination to deliver their testimonies against Akbar in the court, if called on to do so.

In a series of tweets, AICC spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, "The resignation of MoS External Affairs MJ Akbar after serious charges were levelled against him by senior women journalists who worked with him is a vindication of the power of truth even if it began with one brave person speaking up".

However, BJP sources maintained that this decision has sent a strong message in the masses across the country that PM Modi cannot tolerate any blot on his government.

M.J. Akbar’s charge that sexual harassment accusations are nothing but defamatory in nature and a political conspiracy has failed to evoke support.

At present, several well known celebrities such as actors Nana Patekar and Tanushree Dutta, Actor Alok Nath Vs Vinta Nanda, Film Director Sajid Khan Vs Saloni Chopra, Karishma Upadhyay, Simran Suri and Rachel White are engaged in charges and counter-charges on #MeToo.

No sphere of activity, be it politics, media, sports or entertainment that has not been singled out by #MeToo. Famous Film Director Subhas Ghai, Singer Kailash Kher and actor Rajat Kapoor are facing similar charges. Rahul Johri, CEO-Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been sent on leave by the Committee of Administrators (COA) to legally resolve his alleged sexual harassment case reportedly at Discovery TV, and so on and so forth.

So, the court’s decision will certainly make a nationwide impact on this #MeToo Movement in India. Thus, all the eyes will remain focused on the court’s final decision, where the #MeToo charges against Akbar will be judged legally.

(The writer is a Delhi based senior Journalist and Editor. https://bit.ly/2mh7hih

Photo Courtesy - Anand Bazar

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