In a scathing indictment, the Internal Complaints Committee of TERI has recommended disciplinary action against the director-general. It also wants him to pay compensation to the victim
By Ramesh Menon
IT is now not going to be easy for RK Pachauri, the director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to get away in a sexual harassment case. The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of TERI has validated the compliant of a 29-year-old female employee who alleged that he had sexually harassed her.
Reliable sources told India Legal that the ICC found that repeated attempts by Pachauri to foster personal relationships with employees was not only a conflict of interest and misuse of designation, it also amounted to violation of the prevention of sexual harassment policy.
After a detailed review of messages that Pachauri sent to this employee, the ICC found that when she expressed discomfort over his behavior, he had retaliated by taking away her work and assigning it to other colleagues. She had also said that she had lost out on career prospects due to the constant harassment.
It is learnt that the ICC examined the impact of the incident on the complainant’s health because of the harassment and found that it had seriously impacted her. It said that she suffered from several medical complications that affected her liver and induced weakness and extreme fatigue, as diagnosed by her doctor. She had also been diagnosed with depression and there were medical tests indicating it. It appeared to the ICC that she would need further sessions with her counselor.
On February 18, the complainant had filed a report charging Pachauri of sexually harassing her. As he filed for anticipatory bail, it was granted by the court on the condition that he co-operates with the police and does not enter the TERI office. Obviously, because the court did not want him to intimidate the employees or the ICC which was to submit its report. But the source indicated that the ICC was under pressure from Pachauri and other seniors in TERI while it was investigating and compiling the report.
The source said that ICC recommended disciplinary action against Pachauri and wan-ted him to pay monetary compensation to the victim. It also suggested that the amount be deducted from his salary for the mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to her.
Pachauri, then, filed another plea this fortnight asking the Delhi sessions court to permit him to attend office. He said that he had suffered emotional and financial loss being out of the office. The court observed that the right to livelihood was a fundamental right and could not be suspended for an indefinite period. The court turned down his plea but asked the police to expedite the probe and complete it by July 17.
Additional Sessions Judge Raj Kumar Tripathi said: “Considering the nature of allegations leveled against the accused and totality of the facts and circumstances of this case, this court postpones passing of any order on the application of accused till the next date of hearing.”
TERI’s complaints committee found that the traumatised victim suffered from medical complications that affected her liver and induced weakness and extreme fatigue caused by stress.
Indira Jaising, former additional solicitor general of India, told India Legal that this case amazed her as it had not moved as fast as it should and that the Governing Council (GC) of TERI which has eminent personalities had not asked Pachauri to step down as director-general of TERI and as chancellor of the TERI University so that the probe could be carried out impartially. However, Deepak Parekh, chairman of HDFC who is on the GC, told India Legal that the counsel had not seen the ICC report yet and had asked Leena Srivastava, the acting director-general of TERI, to examine the findings of the report. He said that Pachauri was being tried by the media and the GC could not go by what it said and would wait for the court verdict to take action against Pachauri.
HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh
As the ICC report vindicated the charges leveled against Pachauri, he moved the Delhi High Court to stop publication of its findings. Pachauri had maintained that Section 16 of the Sexual Harassment Act prohibited publication by the media. A division bench headed by Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed remarked: “This is a first of its kind case.” The bench also stated that such an interpretation would be decided for the first time. When the victim has got a finding in her favor showing that she had been harassed, justice is secured, the bench added refusing to pass any order at that moment on Pachauri’s plea.