Former TERI chief R.K. Pachauri, accused of sexually harassing a colleague, has been granted permission by a Delhi court to travel abroad for over a month to attend meetings and conferences.
Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan ruled that Pachauri was clear to tour the US and Mexico between 12 July and 14 August, as long as he abided by the conditions set by the court.
Pachauri's application, seeking clearance to go abroad, was filed by his counsel Ashish Dixit. The district court at Saket noted that the investigation into the charges brought against Pachauri are incomplete and that a 1,400-page chargesheet has already been filed.
"In these circumstances, the accused is permitted to travel as per his itinerary, subject to furnishing of one local surety of Rs. 2,00,000 ... and upon furnishing an undertaking that he shall appear in the Court in person or through counsel and shall not dispute his identity at a later stage," the ruling said.
This is not the only time Pachauri has been allowed to travel out of the country, as the woman who has accused him of misdemeanour awaits justice. Prior to this, he has been away from India at least ten times during the pendency of the trial. As recently as on 5 July he had returned from a 20-day trip to Norway, Mexico, France and Switzerland.
On 13 February, 2015, an FIR was launched against Pachauri for the alleged offences of misconduct, following which he managed to secure anticipatory bail on 21 March, 2015. In March this year, a 29-year-old woman, a former TERI research analyst, had filed a petition to cancel Pachauri's bail, arguing that a free and fair trial could not be conducted if the accused were allowed to move freely. The court had overruled her appeal.
On 1 March, 2016, Delhi police filed a chargesheet against him, booking him under sections 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 354-D (stalking), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 341 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC. However, he has never been arrested.
The chargesheet mentions the environmentalist sent several inappropriate messages and emails to these female colleagues. The police have cited at least 23 witness, some being present or former employees of TERI, who have offered to depose in this case. Until the trial is underway, swiftly and expediently, risks of witnesses backing out, or being influenced in their testimonies, will continue to be there.
Since the incidents of sexual misconduct came to light, TERI spent months dilly-dallying over taking any disciplinary action against Pachauri. After widespread public outcry, the environmentalist decided to step down as the chairman of the institution to "pursue other interests" after his term ended in March 2016.