Prominent lawyers and civil society activists on Wednesday demanded the resignation of R K Pachauri from TERI and questioned why he has not been suspended from the position.
In a letter to TERI’s governing council, senior lawyer Indira Jaising and activist Vrinda Grover among others questioned how Pachauri was allowed to have the “extraordinary benefit” of going on leave saying it adds “insult to injury”.
“The question that we wish to raise with you is that why have you not considered it appropriate to suspend R K Pachauri from his position as Director General of the institution pending the enquiry,” the letter said.
Jaising and others said that no “fair” inquiry can be held while Pachauri is still the DG of the organisation and given his seniority, all members of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) would be junior to him thus “exaggerating an already existing imbalance of power”.
“Considering he is the DG, subject to all rules and regulations of TERI, a disciplinary enquiry must be initiated against him for acts of misconduct and he must be suspended pending the entity.
“Allowing him to go on leave is adding insult to injury and we request that disciplinary proceedings be initiated against him forthwith if he fails to resign,” the letter said.
Apart from Jaising and Grover, others signatories were former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan, Jagori Director Suneeta Dhar, senior journalist Pamela Philipose, PUCL national secretary Kavita Srivastava and JNU professor Nivedita Menon.
“We write to you (TERI) in our capacity as concerned citizens to call upon R K Pachauri to resign from the position of TERI DG. You (TERI) alone have the power to do and if he fails to do so you have the power to terminate his engagement as TERI DG, the letter said.
Buffeted by allegations of sexual harassment, Pachauri on Tuesday had quit as Chairman of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose meeting he was prevented from attending. TERI, a research institute focusing on energy, environment and sustainable development, had also announced that Pachauri has proceeded on leave “for the time being” but disclosed no reasons for doing so.
The letter said that the members of the governing council members carry a “heavy responsibility” to steer the organisation in a “value-based direction” and to provide an atmosphere within the organisation free from sexual harassment or any other form of discrimination against women.
“The woman employee must be given adequate witness protection and given freedom to conduct the multiple court proceedings that are in progress without any hindrance and be granted leave with pay if she so desires,” the letter said.
The activists rued that despite all the laws and efforts made to secure the safety of women following the incident of sexual violence on December 16 2012, women continue to be vulnerable in public places, homes and workplace.
“We can only conclude that society cannot be changed by law alone and what is really needed is change in our actions and thoughts. It is for the leadership of organisations at the top level to demonstrate this change in their actions.
“Unfortunately, we have seen men in positions of power take advantage of the vulnerability of younger women by sexually harassing them leading to attrition and dropping out of women from the workforce,” the letter said.
74-year-old Pachauri, who shared Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former US Vice President Al Gore for work on climate issues, heads TERI, where a woman employee has filed a complaint with the police levelling allegations of sexual harassment. He has been granted interim protection from arrest till February 26 by a Delhi court.