R K Pachauri, facing sexual harassment charges, was today asked to step down from the position of director general of the The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), bringing an end to his uninterrupted reign at the Delhi-based organisation he has been associated with for over three decades.
TERI’s governing council, comprising prominent corporate names like Deepak Parekh, Naina Lal Kidwai, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Hemendra Kothari, met in Bangalore today and decided to replace Pachauri with Ajay Mathur, who is currently director general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) that functions under the power ministry.
A press release issued on behalf of TERI sought to give the impression that the decision had nothing to do with the sexual harassment case. It said the search for a successor began in September last year, almost six months before Pachauri was accused of sexual harassment by a junior colleague.
“The decision to appoint Dr Ajay Mathur is… the culmination of an extensive search process and an intensive evaluation of candidates from across the globe. The governing council is certain that the 1,200 persons working for TERI in different parts of the world would welcome this development and extend all their support towards a smooth transition,” said the press release.
Mathur said he was “excited” and looking forward to working at TERI. Stating that he has three months to wind up his unfinished work at BEE, he said, “I hope I will be able to do it before three months and move to TERI.”
The press release was silent on whether Pachauri’s exit would be immediate or if he would continue till Mathur takes charge. When contacted, two members of the governing council refused to comment.
Pachauri went on leave from TERI after the sexual harassment charge became public in February. Last week, a Delhi court that had restrained him from attending office allowed him to visit TERI premises other than the headquarters and the office in Gurgaon where the alleged victim is currently posted.
Following the relief from court, Pachauri had started functioning from TERI’s Defence Colony office from Monday. That had led to protests by a section of TERI staff who also petitioned the governing council. “We, as employees of TERI, do not have faith in the present leadership. Keeping the organisation in mind, we urge the governing council to consider a change in leadership immediately,” the employees said in their petition.
They welcomed the governing council’s decision today. “The decision is a very positive development. It finally means that TERI as an institution has stood up to do the right thing. It restores the dignity that TERI used to have,” said an employee who did not want to be identified.
The alleged victim, however, said the governing council had not addressed her complaint. “They have made it look like it is a routine change of guard. There is no mention of my case. And we do not know whether Pachauri will go immediately or continue for a few more months,” she said.
In the press release, the governing council said it could not act on the report of an internal complaints committee that had indicted Pachauri on the sexual harrassment charge. “Action on this report has been stayed by the court… The GC (governing council) of TERI respects all court proceedings and abides by its directions,” it said.
Today’s decision comes five months after the alleged victim filed a police complaint against Pachauri. Following that, Pachauri had to resign from the chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global body of scientists, months before his second six-year tenure was to come to an end.
Pachauri also had to resign from the membership of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. But he continued to hang on to his position as director-general of TERI and only proceeded on leave when the allegations became public.
Mathur, an engineer by training, is a widely respected technocrat, credited with ushering in a revolution in the energy efficiency sector. He has been very active on the climate change circuit as well, and played a prominent role in brokering an agreement on technology. He has been a part of India’s negotiating team in the past and most recently headed the Green Climate Fund in Bonn.