RK Pachauri’s elevation as an Executive Vice-Chairman of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) may have been put down by a 29-year-old woman who has charged him with sexual harassment but the episode shows that his tight grip over the environment group has not diminished. The controversial promotion answered one key question: That Pachauri’s control over the organisation continued during the sexual harassment investigation and it will flourish despite Ajay Mathur taking over as the new director general. TERI confirmed that Pachauri was heading the institute for almost the entire period of investigation. Pachauri continued to serve as director-general (DG) of TERI with the “mandate” entrusted to him by the governing council.
Soon after sexual harassment charges were levelled against Pachauri last February, he went on leave and the governing council appointed Leena Srivastava as acting DG in his absence. It was only in July 2015 when a court allowed Pachauri to access his office that senior TERI officials decided to relieve Srivastava of her charge as acting DG.
When molestation case subsided a bit, he resumed back. After he resumed work at TERI headquarters, the 29-year-old researcher was also working in the same office. And her senior was holding meetings with Pachauri on a daily basis, which TERI says were only for “official” purposes. Senior functionaries reportedly used to visit Pachauri’s home, when he was debarred by the court from entering the TERI Headquarters between March and July 2015. Pachauri was overseeing certain projects himself, especially the overseas ones, and the section heads may have gone to seek some “clarifications”. Insiders say after the complaint, Pachauri’s position has got stronger and that has become evident from his re-designation as executive vice-president.
Mr. Pachauri has been allowed to travel abroad by the court on seven occasions, including the latest. During the pendency of the trial, he has travelled to various countries to attend global meets and conferences on environmental issues, including USA, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Kuwait, Somalia, France and Saudi Arabia. He had also stepped down from United Nations’ IPCC and Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change after the case was lodged against him.
The appointment of RK Pachauri has left the woman, who accused him of sexual harassment angry and compelled her to write an open letter on the development. However, the victim is also planning to take legal action against Pachauri’s appointment. The accused has been given a new designation with certainly more powers but we will have to understand what kind of powers he has been assigned.
This is not the first time that Pachauri is in controversy, Christopher Booker and Richard North wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph in January 2010 alleging potential conflicts of interest related to Pachauri’s membership of the board of ONGC and to research grants for TERI, a non-profit institution of which Pachauri was director general. They further alleged that financial anomalies existed at TERI Europe. Pachauri had denied all allegations. In response to the allegations, the audit firm KPMG carried out a review at TERI’s request. The review stated: “No evidence was found that indicated personal financial benefits accruing to Dr. Pachauri from his various advisory roles that would have led to a conflict of interest”. In a caveat, the review explains that its scope was “significantly different from an audit and cannot be relied on to provide the same level of assurance as an audit. KPMG examined payments made by private sector companies and found that payments amounting to $326,399 were made to TERI itself, not to Pachauri. He had received only his annual salary from TERI, amounting to £45,000 a year, plus a maximum of about £2,174 from outside earnings. He received no payment for chairing the IPCC. On 21 August 2010, the Daily Telegraph issued an apology, saying that it had “not intended to suggest that Dr. Pachauri was corrupt or abusing his position. The newspaper was reported to have paid legal costs of over £100,000.
On 18 February 2015, Delhi police filed a First Investigation Report (FIR) against Pachauri documenting allegations of assault, sexual harassment, stalking and criminal intimidation. Two days later, Indian newspapers reported that a 29-year-old research analyst with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) had raised a complaint of sexual harassment against Pachauri at the institute. The Delhi High Court directed him to join the police probe. Pachauri resigned as the head of the IPCC on 24 February 2015 while denying the allegations. TERI subsequently announced that Pachauri had “proceeded on leave”. On March 21, the Delhi High Court granted him anticipatory bail. On 28 May 2015, Pachauri was found guilty of sexual harassment by an internal complaints committee (ICC) of TERI. The Delhi High Court had set 17 July 2015 as the final date for disposing off the case.
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