The Editors Guild of India on Thursday called upon Bharatiya Janata Party leader MJ Akbar to withdraw the criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who accused him of sexual harassment. Akbar, a former president of the guild, resigned from his position of minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday after 16 women accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct in the past.

“While Mr Akbar is entitled to all legal instruments available to a citizen to seek vindication, it would be paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation,” the guild said in a statement.

The Patiala House Court in Delhi will hear the case on Thursday afternoon. Akbar, a former editor, has rejected all allegations against him.

Over a dozen women journalists who have accused Akbar have said that they stand by their allegations even though he has threatened legal action. The guild said it would offer its support to Ramani, and to other complainants too if Akbar files a defamation complaint against them as well. “If any of them were to need legal advice or assistance, the guild will do the best it can to help and also appeal to eminent lawyers to represent them pro bono,” it added.

The guild also praised the women journalists who spoke out about Akbar and the alleged sexual harassment. “The resignation of Mr MJ Akbar from the Union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom,” it said.