Union Minister M.J. Akbar’s refusal to step down after facing charges of sexual misconduct appears to be a case of history repeating itself.
In 1989, Ziaur Rahman Ansari, who was Environment Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet, was accused of molestation by a 26-year-old environmental activist, Mukti Dutta, when she had gone to the Minister’s office at Paryavaran Bhavan on October 11 that year.
Mr. Ansari had opposed the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case that eventually led the Rajiv Gandhi government to bring a law in Parliament to undo the landmark verdict. Ironically, Mr. Akbar was then in the Congress.
According to a report published on October 28, 1989 in The Hindu , Ms. Dutta had complained to the then Cabinet Secretary, T.N. Seshan, and to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, B.G. Deshmukh, on October 17 about the Minister’s conduct.
However, when there was no “official action” against the Minister, the activist filed a written complaint and lodged an FIR on October 27 at the Lodhi Colony police station. Ms. Dutta then held a press conference where she repeated her charges that Mr. Ansari tried to outrage her modesty and illegally confine her.
A day later, reported The Hindu , Mr. Ansari issued a statement denying the allegation as “patently false and untruthful”, and indicated that he would be filing a defamation case against Ms. Dutta. The former Minister even indicated that he was being “targeted” to deny him the Congress ticket to contest the Unnao Lok Sabha seat. Other reports from the time indicated that Mr. Ansari ignored the “informal advice” of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by choosing to spend most of his time in Unnao from where he was contesting an election.