Regular-article-logo Monday, 29 May 2023

After 'poetic justice', wait for justice

Priya Ramani, the first journalist to name Akbar, says she feels 'vindicated'

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 17.10.18, 08:32 PM
MJ Akbar has resigned nine days after being named.

MJ Akbar has resigned nine days after being named. The Telegraph file picture

Eighty hours and 20 women standing up to be counted in a defamation suit slapped against one was what it finally took the Narendra Modi government to concede that it is “TimesUp” for junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar.

Many saw poetic justice in Akbar putting in his papers on Mahashtami — the day Goddess Durga slayed the demon — after trying to brazen it out, first with a statement that sought to attribute political motives to the MeToo campaign against him and then with a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first journalist to name him.


“As women, we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #metoo,” Ramani tweeted. The case is scheduled for its first hearing in Patiala House Courts on Thursday.

Even as attempts were made to spin Akbar’s departure from South Block as evidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s zero tolerance towards sexual harassment, the questions the government and the BJP hoped to wish away with the resignation did not disappear.

Many women in the forefront of the movement asked why Akbar was allowed to continue in office for nine days after he was first named, and 80 hours after he returned to India from an official trip.

Officials said it was not easy to pull him out of a foreign tour as bilateral engagements are fixed for ministers in coordination with the other country. But recently, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman did cut short her Central Asia visit to return home ahead of the Modi-Putin summit in Delhi for the S-400 deal.

Even if the official tour defence was accepted, why did the government not remove him the moment he landed in Delhi on Sunday and instead remain a mute spectator to his decision to file a defamation case while in office, the women asked.

Before the resignation was announced late in the afternoon, pressure continued to be heaped on both Akbar and the government to act. More of his former colleagues endorsed the testimonies of the women who said they had been sexually harassed by him.

The Constitutional Conduct Group — a collective of retired bureaucrats — wrote an open letter to the President and the Prime Minister, calling for Akbar’s removal. “We are of the view that considerations of constitutional propriety and morality dictate that Shri Akbar should step down from office or be removed from the Union Council of Ministers,” they said.


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