Top Indian Journalist and Minister MJ Akbar sues journalist Priya Ramani over sexual assault allegations

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The lawsuit says that Ramani “intentionally put forward fabricated” allegations to harm his reputation.

India’s junior foreign minister MJ Akbar has filed a defamation suit against one of at least 10 women who has accused the former editor of sexual harassment.

The lawsuit filed on Monday named journalist Priya Ramani as the sole accused and said that she “intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated and salacious” allegations to harm his reputation, according to Reuters news agency.

Ramani, in a statement posted on Twitter, said she was “deeply disappointed” by Akbar’s court complaint and was “ready to fight the allegations of defamation”.

Rather than “engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment,” she added.

Under Indian law, defamation is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in jail.

The lawsuit comes amid protests calling for Akbar’s resignation in India’s capital, New Delhi.

More than 200 protesters from the youth wing of the opposition Congress party waved placards and chanted slogans outside Akbar’s Delhi home on Monday.

Some jumped barricades and clashed with police and dozens were detained, a Reuters witness said.

Akbar, 67, a veteran editor who founded several publications, has been accused of a range of inappropriate behavior by female journalists who previously worked as his subordinates.

Many have called for Akbar to be sacked and have threatened to boycott events he was scheduled to attend until he resigned.

Shutapa Paul, another journalist who has accused Akbar of harassment, told Al Jazeera the minister “has any moral responsibility he should step down”.

“Truth and justice shall prevail,” she told Al Jazeera.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained silent on the issue for days, while Akbar was attending a conference in Nigeria.

He returned to New Delhi on Sunday morning to find a crowd of reporters waiting outside his residence.

“This doesn’t impose any confidence in the government’s seriousness in addressing a very grave issue,” Geeta Seshu, member of the Network of Women and Media told Al Jazeera.

“On the one hand, this government professes a commitment to womens’ rights and to the girl child. And on the other, it allows a minister against whom such shocking allegations have been made to continue in office and represent it in international fora,” she added.

“Akbar, being a minister, the misuse of his powers in the pursuit of any legal action he contemplates is highly possible,” Seshu said.

“In the interests of an independent investigation and to ensure real justice for the courageous women who have come out to speak up, he should be told to step down till his name is cleared.”

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