India’s junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar has sued one of more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, according to the Press Trust of India, as the #MeToo movement reverberates through the South Asian nation.
Akbar, who has denied sexual harassment allegations, filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, according to PTI. The minister said Ramani, who wrote about Akbar in Vogue India, “willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously” defamed him.
On Sunday, Akbar had released a statement denying the allegations and saying he would take “appropriate legal action.” The minister said “these false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill.”
A receptionist at Karanjawala & Co, the law firm handling Akbar’s lawsuit, confirmed a suit had been filed, but said all lawyers involved with the case were currently tied up in court. Calls to Akbar’s office have gone unanswered, as did emails to his personal and work accounts. Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for the external affairs ministry, has declined to comment.
More than a dozen women, including a Bloomberg journalist based in London, have alleged that Akbar sexually harassed them or engaged in other inappropriate behavior decades ago during his time as an editor of several Indian publications.
The allegations include Akbar forcibly kissing young interns, interviewing women in his hotel rooms and offering to set young female employees up with a job and an apartment where he could visit them. Others say he stared at their breasts and touched them without their consent.
Meanwhile, in an evening statement Ramani said she was “deeply disappointed” at Akbar’s dismissal of the numerous allegations against him.
“By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Mr. Akbar has made his stand clear: rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them,” Ramani said. “I am ready to fight allegations of defamation laid against me.”