NEW DELHI -- In July, when the governing council of The Energy And Resources Institute announced that it was appointing a new director general, the statement was deliberately vague about the future of the incumbent, the 74-year-old climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who is facing investigations for sexually harassing a 29-year-old woman researcher who worked in his office.
Now, the implications of that move are becoming clearer. The statement praised Pachauri's contributions to the institution and said the new DG — Ajay Mathur — will take up the role "as soon as he is in a position to do so". It made no mention of what the interim arrangement would be. The statement came in the wake of intense public scrutiny of the failure of the TERI board to act against Pachauri even after an internal investigation found him guilty, or at the very least to make sure he did not remain in a position of power and influence while the investigation progressed.
It now seems that the statement was designed to help Pachauri continue in his position of supreme influence at TERI, the organisation where the complainant continues to work.
Pachauri has now sought permission to travel overseas on TERI work. He was permitted to travel to the US in June on account of a death in the family. Last April, he was denied permission to attend a global water summit.
He has now requested the Saket district court that he needs to travel between 21 August and 1 September to Japan and China for official work as TERI DG. That's right — the conceit hidden in the vagueness of the governing council statement means that Pachauri continues to function as DG of TERI and as per websites of the concerned institutions, as chancellor of TERI University and as a member of TERI governing council.
As part of his application, which HuffPost India has seen, he has attached letters of invitation from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Tokyo which was formed under the Japanese government, and the United Nations Environment Programme's International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP) in China.
While the IEMP meetings in China and Japan from 22 to 28 August, the IGES meeting is in Tokyo on 29 August. IEMP is organising a Strategic Dialogue on climate change, where Pachauri has been asked to give an address. He is later expected to meet Dr. Wakako Hironaka, who is the former environment minister of Japan, and also husband to one of the TERI governing council members which has stood by Pachauri through the allegations against him.
Pachauri, in his petition to the court, has said, "In the light of the facts and circumstances enumerated above, it is respectfully prayed that (a) Pass order permitting the applicant to travel abroad from 21.08.2015 to 01.09.2015 in order to deliver address and to meet various people as enumerated in the present Petition to undertake this occupation in the interest of justice."
Pachauri obtained a stay from the labour tribunal against operationalizing the recommendations of the internal investigations committee. The next hearing on that stay is only in September.
In the meanwhile, the complainant had written to the PM requesting him to ensure justice is done in the high-profile case. TERI had issued a sternly-worded statement rebutting the charges she made in her letter.
TERI's governing council include many luminaries — its chairman is Prof. B V Sreekantan, an Indian high-energy astrophysicist and former associate of Homi J. Bhabha at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Members besides Pachauri are Dr (Mrs) Wakako Hironaka, Deepak S Parekh (Chairman of Housing Development Finance Corporation), Naina Lal Kidwai (Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India), Shailesh Nayak (secretary at Ministry of Earth Sciences), Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Limited), Hemendra Kothari (Chairman of DSP BlackRock Investment Managers Private Limited), Dr Henrik O Madsen (Group President & CEO of DNV GL Group), and Dr Leena Srivastava (who was made acting DG for an interim period after allegations against Pachauri first came to light).