The appointment of RK Pachauri as executive vice-chairman (a new post) of the New Delhi-based The Energy Research Institute (Teri) on Monday is not only infuriating, but also surprising. It is infuriating because the high-powered governing council (GC) went ahead with the appointment despite the case being sub judice; in other words, the GC has told the court that it will go ahead with what it thinks is the truth and that the court’s final judgment is inconsequential to its plan for the organisation. The GC’s stand is surprising because it comprises well-known public luminaries who have taken the risk of opening themselves up to severe public condemnation. Obviously, some sort of a ‘club’ mentality is at work here. According to the victim, the all-powerful GC did not hold a single meeting over her complaint while it met twice to look into the “insecurities of RK Pachauri”. If this is true, then it is extremely unfortunate and goes against what Teri stands for at the global high table: Equity and justice for all.
The GC’s stand on the case and the police’s lack of interest to fast-track the case also show that despite having a strong Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, in place, getting justice is an uphill task in this country even in the organised sector. What happens to cases of sexual harassment in the unorganised sector is better left unsaid. By protecting Pachauri, the GC has also undermined the basis of this law, which says that in any complaint against an employer, the management is supposed to support the complainant through the process of inquiry and take action against the employer.
On Wednesday, Pachauri’s legal team told the court that it would be wrong to say that the executive vice-chairman’s post is new; it, according to his lawyer, has been in existence since the inception of the organisation. Team Pachauri has not understood the moot point of the criticism: It’s not the new post, but the fact that he has been reinstated is the cause of distress not only for the victim but also for those who support her. After hearing the announcement of the appointment, the victim, in an open letter on Tuesday, said that Pachauri’s return makes her “flesh crawl”. She is not the only one who feels that way.