NEW DELHI -- The 29-year-old researcher of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who has accused its Director General RK Pachauri of sexual harassment, has now approached the Delhi high court with a writ petition challenging the way the climate think-tank has handled the case so far. A preliminary hearing of the writ petition came up at the high court today.
"The matter is at a preliminary stage of hearing right now. The court will hear the matter again next Monday," said the woman's counsel Prashant Mendiratta.
The woman had accused Pachauri, who is a globally influential voice on climate change and received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, of sexually harassing her at work. In the woman's complaint to the police in February this year, she alleged that Pachauri had sexually harassed her since September 2013.
In the writ petition filed by her, she has challenged the way the organisation has handled the sexual harassment complaint, and how it has affected her constitutional rights.
While an investigation by TERI's internal committee had found Pachauri guilty of misconduct and in violation of the organisation's policy on the sexual harassment on 19 May, no action has been taken by the climate think-tank so far. This was apparently because Pachauri went to labour court and obtained an ex-parte stay (meaning without the representation of other parties involved before the judicial forum) on the operation of the recommendations. This was done on 29 May.
Earlier in July, TERI's governing council had explained it had not taken any action against Pachauri yet because its hands were tied as a court had stayed any action on the recommendations of the report.
Quoting an ex-parte order from May 29 that said “The operation of the report of the Internal Complaints Committee shall remain stayed”, they referred to the same judgment which has stated that the principles of natural justice have not been followed by the internal committee that had carried out the 90-days-long investigation. Interestingly, TERI's own committee has prepared an extensive explanation to counter this allegation.
Now the matter is again up for hearing at the tribunal tomorrow.
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).
Mazumdar-Shaw has resigned from the council following this case, but her resignation is yet to be accepted. She said she "refused to be dragged in an extremely contentious issue" as she did not know enough about the issue.
The complainant has hit out at the TERI governing council in the past for their inaction.