Accused of sexual harassment of a colleague, R K Pachauri ceased to be chief of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), within days of resuming work after a court order had allowed him to physically attend the organisation’s offices. The environmental group's governing council, meeting in Bengaluru on Thursday, announced that Pachauri would be replaced by Ajay Mathur, who is at present the director-general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the power ministry.
Pachauri, who had proceeded on leave when the news of complaint broke out, in a sudden turn of events, took back charge again at the helm of Teri on July 17. But on Thursday, the governing council of Teri, which includes prominent names such as Naina Lal Kidwai, Kiran-Mazumdar Shaw and Deepak Parekh, met at Bengaluru to conclude that Mathur would replace Pachauri.
Business Standard also reviewed letters written by senior lawyer Vrinda Grover to the Delhi Police commissioner, pointing out that two former employees of Teri, too, wanted to give written complaints of sexual harassment against Pachauri but the police had for months not recorded their statements. She noted that she had repeatedly requested the Delhi Police over months to record their statements in confidentiality but the police had not acted upon the pleas of the two complainants. The letters date to March and April of this year.
Teri’s governing council said in the press release on Thursday, “Mathur will take up his new responsibilities as soon as he is in a position to do so, subsequent to being relieved from his current responsibilities by the Government of India.” Oddly, the press release was sent by the public relations agency, Lexicon Public Relations & Corporate Consultants, which has been hired by Pachauri in his personal capacity specifically for the sexual harassment case and not by Teri.
The release said an extensive and detailed search process for a successor to Pachauri had begun in September 2014, which culminated in the appointment of Mathur. Mathur had worked earlier at Teri as head of the energy engineering division.
Teri’s governing council did not announce whether it had sacked Pachauri or he had volunteered to resign.
Teri’s governing council tried to take a softer route out while referring to Pachauri’s removal. It did not explicitly state why he was being removed from the post. Additionally, it suggested the council was not contemplating any other disciplinary action against Pachauri. The release said, “The GC (governing council) also considered the question of any action that could be taken on the report of the Internal Complaints Committee at Teri on the issue of alleged sexual harassment. Action on this report has been stayed by the Court, which ruled ‘The operation of the report of the Internal Complaints Committee shall remain stayed.’ The judgment of May 29, 2015 also stated ‘The principles of natural justice have not been followed at all by the said Committee, contrary to Rules.’ The GC of Teri respects all court proceedings.”
This governing council’s statement is partly incorrect. The court order, which was secured by Pachauri ex-parte, says the complainant’s lawyers “took me (the judge) through the inquiry report of Internal Complaints Committee and has pointed out that principles of natural justice have not been followed at all by the said committee contrary to rules”. The court issued notices to the responding parties to reply and decided, “In the meantime, operation of the report of the Internal Complaints Committee shall remain stayed.” The court did not decide on the merits of the committee report and Pachauri’s contentions against it. It only stayed action on the report till further decisions were taken. The next hearing for the case is in September.
The committee had held Pachauri guilty of sexual misconduct and abuse of his position as director-general and recommended action against him. But Pachauri had contended, besides other things, that the complaint against him might be backed by “climate sceptics” (those who do not believe in human-induced climate change).
The committee members, comprising two Teri officials and an outside expert, had also reportedly noted they were subject to “hostile environment” while conducting the probe, with pressure and intimidation from some Teri employees, which included late-night visits to the home of the panel members. The panel also detailed out specifically and elaborately how principles of natural justice were followed during the course of the probe despite the pressures.
Sources at Teri said the organisation did not have any service rules under which disciplinary actions could be taken against Pachauri or other employees in such cases. The sexual harassment law permits a series of actions to be taken by Teri’s governing council in such cases where service rules do not exist.
At the time of going to press, the public relations agency working for Pachauri did not reply to queries about why it was handling communication on behalf of the governing council of Teri.
According to government rules, Mathur would need to serve a three-month notice period before he can join Teri.
|Ajay Mathur: The energy efficiency and climate guru|
Ajay Mathur, who has a doctorate in chemical engineering, is well known in the global energy and climate change world as the energy and technology guru who has worked in all kinds of environments — government, global financial institutions, the private sector and civil society.
“I am honoured that I have been chosen to lead Teri. It is a great institution with an international reputation and I look forward to working together with worldclass colleagues at the organisation,” Mathur told Business Standard. He is currently the director-general at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), where he is credited with mainstreaming energy efficiency standards across industries and appliances, and launching several seminal schemes including that of energy-efficiency trading, abbreviated as PAT.
Of his time at BEE, Mathur said, “I am also privileged to have worked for eight productive years at the BEE and am proud to have been part of this organisation, which has helped bring energy efficiency into homes, offices and factories in India.” He has been a long-standing member of the Indian negotiating team at the global climate talks and serves as a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. He was also the first director at the Green Climate Fund.
He has also worked with the World Bank as the team leader for climate change and Suzlon Energy as its president. He has also run a major environmental funding programme of the World Bank at Washington. His stint at Teri involved two separate roles over two different time periods. On the issues pertaining to R K Pachauri’s tenure, Mathur said, “There is a legal process going on. The governing council is fully ceased of the matter. At the moment, I would not wish to say more.”