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#MeToo: Ethics panel of Rajya Sabha may look into the case of MJ Akbar

There are “indications that the Rajya Sabha MP could come under the glare of the upper house’s ethics committee”. The ethics committee’s mandate is “to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of members”.

According to a report, a few of Akbar’s former peers have approached members of the committee on an informal level. BJP MP Narayan Lal Panchariya told the Indian Express: “If any complaint comes, we will go by the procedure and Akbar case may come on Rajya Sabha ethics panel radar take up the matter.”

Akbar, who resigned from the government last month after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment, said on Friday that he had a consensual relationship with a New York-based journalist who has accused him of raping her.

Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor of the US-based National Public Radio, in a first-person article written for the Washington Post, said she was raped by former minister M.J. Akbar in 1994 when she was 23 years old and working for the Asian Age.

Other sources the newspaper spoke to claimed that a few of the women journalists who have made allegations against Akbar have been in touch with MPs and have reportedly been advised to write directly to individual members of the committee instead of waiting for a response from chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Akbar, who has so far denied the allegations that have been made against him and filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, the first person to accuse him of sexual harassment, has said that the accusation of rape and violence were false. “Somewhere around 1994, Ms Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into a consensual relationship that spanned several months,” Akbar said.

“This relationship gave rise to talk and would later cause significant strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on the best note.”

Gogoi said in the Washington Post that she deciaded to write about the attack after seeing that several journalists had recently gone public about alleged sexual harassment by Akbar years ago.

Akbar’s wife, Mallika Akbar, also issued a statement to ANI in which she said Gogoi caused “unhappiness and discord in our home” through her involvement with her husband.

“I learned of her and my husband’s involvement through her late night phone calls and her public display of affection in my presence,” Mallika said. “In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has formed a group of four cabinet ministers to suggest steps to address sexual harassment at work.

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