New Delhi: A group of women journalists has written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding the dismissal of Union Minister M.J. Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment by a dozen-odd women.
The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) also demanded that the Ministry of External Affairs, where Akbar is Minister of State, should ask him to step down from office pending an independent investigation.
“We are extremely concerned that he continues to be a Minister even as he pursues whatever legal action he plans.
“You will agree that this is highly unethical and improper and will cast a cloud over any investigation into his alleged misdeeds, besides undermining the independence, justice and fair play that any citizen can expect from such proceedings,” NWMI said in its letters to the President and the Prime Minister on Monday.
As for Akbar’s action on Monday to sue Priya Ramani, the journalist who had first named him in the #MeToo campaign, for defamation the NWMI said that it is “a clear attempt to bully, intimidate and silence those bringing to light systemic abuse of women by men in powerful positions”.
“It is designed to push women back into silent compliance and will silence the voices of the many who have not yet spoken up,” it said.
“We would like to point out that Section 499 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code), which pertains to defamation, cites exceptions in case of ‘imputation of truth which public good requires to be made or published’.”
The NWMI said that all support should be extended by the government to women in their struggle for justice and that Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj should “take workplace harassment seriously and not encourage intimidatory tactics against women who have complained”.