File photo: MJ Akbar. Photograph:( DNA )
MJ Akbar has resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs.
Akbar has been accused by as many as 16 women journalists of sexual assault and harassment from when he was a newspaper editor.
"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 have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs," Akbar said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"I am deeply grateful to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minsters Smt. Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country," he added.
Akbar returned to India from Nigeria, where he was leading a trade delegation, on Sunday. There had been no word from him till then, even as woman after woman came out with accusations of sexual assault and harassment against him.
On Sunday afternoon, Akbar said the allegations were a lie, a political conspiracy before the 2019 elections, that he would not be resigning, and that he would be seeking legal remedies.
On Monday, a sixteenth woman accused him of sexual assault, saying he had opened his hotel room door to her wearing only his underwear. The woman had been in her early 20's at the time. She had thought she was going to a job interview.
Last Friday, the US-based CNN journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp accused Akbar of molesting her when she was an 18-year-old intern at the Asian Age in Delhi. On her last day of work, she said, she had gone to say goodbye to him, and he had forcibly kissed her.
She said Akbar had inserted his tongue into her mouth.
She added that her parents, both of whom were foreign correspondents, had been friends with Akbar, which is how she had got her internship.
On Tuesday, Akbar sued the journalist Priya Ramani for criminal defamation saying she had begun "this campaign (against him) a year ago" (see tweet below).
Ramani replied that Akbar was seeking "to silence them (his alleged victims) through intimidation and harassment", that "the absolute truth is my only defence", that she would not be cowed down, and that she would fight back.
On Wednesday, news reports said twenty women journalists had gone on record telling the court that it should listen to their testimonies too — that they had been sexually assaulted and harassed by Akbar.
MJ Akbar's complaint against journalist Priya Ramani will be heard tomorrow in the Patiala House Court by Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Samar Vishal.