Open letter to the President of India regarding continuation of Shri M.J. Akbar in the Union Council of Ministers: 17 October 2018

17 October 2018

To

The Honourable President of India,

New Delhi

(copy to: The Honourable Prime Minister of India, New Delhi)

 

Honourable Rashtrapatiji,

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services, who have worked for decades with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. We wish to make it clear that, as a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in the credo of impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution. We continue to uphold the oath of allegiance to our Constitution we took when we entered service.

We write this letter to express our deep disappointment and outrage at the conspicuous lack of action by the Government of India in responding to the statements by twenty women regarding the sexual harassment faced by them from a person who is today a member of the Union Council of Ministers. In clear and explicit terms, these women have detailed the behaviour of the present Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri M.J. Akbar, over a period of almost three decades from about the mid-1980s to the end of the first decade of this century, when he was in a position of power and responsibility in some of the major news organisations of this country. A number of instances of such harassment by men in positions of power and authority in the fields of journalism, advertising and films have come to light since the first week of October 2018 through social, print and electronic media. While many of these organisations have initiated action to enquire into the allegations by the affected women and have either removed the persons involved from their employment or distanced those under investigation from participation in the day to day affairs of their organisations, it comes as a rude shock to us that no action whatsoever has been forthcoming from the institution primarily charged with upholding the rule of law, namely, the Government of India, against one of its senior members.

As former civil servants, we are fully aware of the need to follow the due process of law. At the same time, constitutional propriety and morality dictate that the functionary concerned should resign from his office pending an enquiry and must not be reappointed to a high constitutional post till he is cleared of all the charges against him. The Vishakha Guidelines issued by the Honourable Supreme Court in 1997 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”) have clearly laid down the steps to be taken to protect women at their workplaces. While it is true that the instances referred to where the Minister was allegedly involved refer to the period before the POSH Act came into effect, it is also a fact that the Vishakha Guidelines were in force when at least three (and possibly more) of these incidents are said to have taken place. It is a sad commentary on our respect for the rule of law that the newspaper organisations concerned had not put in place mechanisms to implement the Vishakha Guidelines, which would have provided an avenue for redressal to women who felt they were the victims of sexual harassment.

While the facts will come out in a full-fledged impartial enquiry, which we hope will be entrusted to a committee comprising eminent citizens, it behoves the Government of India to act in a manner which gives the public confidence that the government is responsibly discharging its constitutional duties. As reported in the media, Shri Akbar is attempting to involve the complainants in time-consuming and costly litigation to avoid answering the allegations which have been levelled against him. We look forward to you, Honourable Rashtrapatiji, to uphold the dignity of the many women who have put their reputations at stake in making these allegations.

We earnestly request you, as the first citizen of our country, to advise the Government of India to seek the resignation of Shri Akbar, failing which it should recommend his removal from the Union Council of Ministers. We also request you to issue directions to the Government of India and the State Governments to put in place robust mechanisms to ensure that women can engage in gainful employment free of the fear of sexual harassment and to ensure that all organisations (in the public and private sectors) follow the provisions of the POSH Act in both letter and spirit.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, GoI
2. V.S. Ailawadi IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Electricity Regulatory Commission
3. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
5. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
6. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
7. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
8. Som Chaturvedi IRTS (Retd.) Former Additional Member, Railway Board, GoI
9. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
10. Javid Chowdhury IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
11. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
12. Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
13. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
14. Nitin Desai IES (Retd.) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
15. Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
16. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
17. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
18. Hirak Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
19. Tuktuk Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping & Tourism, GoI
20. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
21. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
22. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner
23. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)
24. Sajjad Hassan IAS (Retd.) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
25. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
26. Dr. M.A. Ibrahimi IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary (rank), Govt. of Bihar
27. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
28. K. John Koshy IAS (Retd.) Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
29. Ajai Kumar Indian Forest Service (Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI

 

30. Arun Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
31. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
32. Subodh Lal IPoS (Retd.) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
33. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
34. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
35. Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI and Former National Security Adviser
36. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
37. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
38. Noor Mohammad IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, GoI
39. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
40. Nagalswamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
41. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
42. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
43. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
44. Niranjan Pant IA&AS (Retd.) Former Deputy Comptroller & Auditor General of India
45. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
46. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
47. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
48. C. Babu Rajeev IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI
49. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)
50. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab and former Ambassador to Romania
51. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
52. ManMohan Sagar IPS (Retd.) Former CMD, Assam Police Housing Corporation, Govt. of Assam
53. Umrao Salodia IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Rajasthan Road Transport Corporation, Govt. of Rajasthan
54. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
55. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
56. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
57. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
58. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
59. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
60. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
61. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
62. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
63. Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
64. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
65. Jawhar Sircar

 

IAS (Retd.)

 

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & CEO, Prasar Bharati
66. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

 

67. Dr.K.S. Subramanian IPS (Retd.) Former Director General, State Institute of Public Administration & Rural Development, Govt. of Tripura
68. Sanjivi Sundar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, GoI
69. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
70. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
71. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
72. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

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