Environmentalist RK Pachauri, who is facing charges of sexually harassing a junior colleague, was removed as chief of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) on Thursday, days after the Delhi high court allowed him to resume work provided he stayed clear of the think-tank’s head office and the Gurgaon branch, where the victim now works.
According to sources, around 50 employees, including several women, had threatened to go on a strike if Pachauri returned to work, saying it would cause “irrepairable damage” to the institute’s reputation.
The 74-year-old had earlier quit as chairman of the United Nations’ Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and from the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change after being accused of sending the victim inappropriate emails, text and WhatsApp messages. Pachauri has denied all charges, claiming that his mobile phone and email account were hacked into.
Teri’s governing council — headed by BV Sreekantan of the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore — appointed climate expert Ajay Mathur as the institute’s new director-general. Soon after the announcement, Mathur resigned from his current position as head of the government’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). Sources said the government would take a call on waiving off his 90-day notice period.
Sources added that an informal survey conducted by Teri among clients and experts revealed their belief that the case had dented the institute’s reputation globally. “Most legal experts were of the view that the case will go on for some time,” a source said.
A statement released by Teri did not mention the reasons for Pachauri’s removal but said the “interests of Teri and its talented staff were paramount”. “The GC (governing council) is certain that the 1,200 persons working for Teri in different parts of the world would welcome this development,” the statement said.
It also acknowledged Pachauri’s contribution in building a “dynamic” organisation on a global stage. An engineer by profession, Pachauri had been with Teri since its inception 34 years ago when it was funded by the Tata Group.
He was booked on charges of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation on a complaint by a 29-year-old woman on February 13. The Delhi Police are yet to conclude investigation into the case and had opposed his bail plea last week, accusing him of non-cooperation.
Pachauri’s successor Mathur is a former World Bank official who was also instrumental in setting up of the Green Climate Fund in South Korea.