Smriti Irani
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Even as the Opposition continues to demand the resignation of MJ Akbar from council of ministers, Union Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday said justice should be given to the "ladies who are speaking out".
Even as the Opposition continues to demand the resignation of MJ Akbar from council of ministers, Union Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday said justice should be given to the "ladies who are speaking out".
 She declined to comment directly on the allegations of sexual harassment.
 
Parrying questions about whether the junior foreign minister would be asked to exit, she said the minister would be "in a better position to speak" on the allegations.
 
"I think the gentleman concerned would be in a better position to speak. I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues, but I think that it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me as I was not present there," said the Union Textile Minister. She, however, came out in support of the #MeToo campaign, where women have shared their stories of harassment. "My only appeal is that anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, victimised or mocked," she stressed.
 
Earlier Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, had asked for taking the issue seriously and demanded an investigation. Irani also noted that it must be difficult for women to speak out. "Women go to work to live their dreams and earn a respectable living. More and more women are winning support. I feel there are enough instruments to deliver justice. Hope these women get justice," she said. "I feel there are enough instruments in our judicial and police systems to deliver justice and I am hopeful that all these ladies who are speaking out get, due to due process, the justice that they deserve," she added.
 
Meanwhile Akbar, who is in Nigeria, is returning to country on Sunday after completing his visit to Equatorial Guinea. The Opposition, led by Congress, has launched a sharp attack on the government for not acting against the minister despite the grave allegations against him.
 
"If Justice Kavanaugh in America could be asked to answer for something he did in his youth, Shri MJ Akbar did whatever he did much later in his life than his counterpart in America," Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said. The CPI(M) and AIMIM, too, have demanded the Union Minister's resignation. The CPI(M) said, "Since these are serious charges, MJ Akbar's continuance as a the Minister of State in the central government is untenable. He should immediately resign from office."