Pachauri sent on indefinite leave, activists say it ‘means nothing’

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) TERI on Friday asked its executive vice chairman R.K. Pachauri, mired in a sexual harassment case, to proceed on indefinite leave, a move the women activists said “meant nothing”.

The Energy and Resources Institute’s move comes in the face of flak from various quarters over making him the executive vice chairman, the first ever in TERI.

Pachauri was accused of sexually harassing a 29-year-old female colleague in 2015.

Meanwhile, TERI university acting vice chancellor Rajiv Seth told IANS that varsity vice chancellor Leena Srivastava, on a sabbatical since August 2015, is likely to rejoin soon.

The university will hold its convocation on March 7.

“Pachauri, who has been institute head since 1982, will be on leave from TERI, TERI Governing Council and TERI University till the issue is reviewed by the governing council given the sub judice nature of the matter,” a TERI statement said.

Senior lawyer Vrinda Grover, who has been vocal on the whole issue, said the action did not mean anything as Pachauri continued to retain his posts.

“PachauriÂ’s leave doesnÂ’t mean anything as he still holds the posts. He retains his office as the chancellor (of TERI University). It is illegal and he needs to be removed by the Human Resource Development Ministry and by the varsity board,” Grover told IANS.

The statement also mentioned that Ashok Chawla, a former finance secretary and former chairman of the Competition Commission, will be the new TERI chairman.

“The council welcomed Ashok Chawla as its new chairman. The council looks forward to his leadership of this important institute. The council also inducted the new director general Ajay Mathur as a council member who will operate with full executive powers.”

Meanwhile, a protest was staged outside TERI office here by women activists opposing the scientist’s reappointment at the institute.

After sexual harassment charge, Pachauri stepped down as chairperson of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February last year and proceeded on leave from TERI where he was the director general.

Later, Pachauri was removed as TERI head in July and Ajay Mathur appointed in his place. In November, the woman researcher who accused him of sexual harassment quit her job at TERI, alleging she was treated badly. TERI denied the charge.

On Monday, Pachauri was appointed the executive vice chairman.

Soon after, another woman employee of the organisation also levied similar charges against him and called him a “serial sexual harasser”.

Meanwhile, a TERI press release on Friday said it is a “unique organisation with a global presence”, adding that 33 percent of its 1,200 employees and 14 of the 30 directors are women.

“The governing council of TERI supports the rights of women and has consistently ensured the provision of a secure environment and a safe workplace for its employees,” the statement said.

The woman, who had made the sexual harassment allegation last year, ripped into the statement.

“It is really sad that they are speaking through press releases after such a massive public outrage. The release does not make my allegations or the case the focus, but is discussing TERI operations,” the complainant told IANS.

“They are saying they protect women; why wasn’t I protected?”

Women rights group had been vocal in opposing Pachauri’s reappointment.

Students of TERI university, of which Pachauri is a chancellor, had also sent letters to the acting vice chancellor Rajiv Seth that they would not accept their degrees from Pachauri.

TERI alumni from the 2013-15 batch, Sunil Gupta, one of those who sent a letter to the acting vice chancellor, said disciplinary action should be taken against Pachauri.

“A disciplinary action is needed, sending him on leave is not enough,” Gupta told IANS.

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