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R K Pachauri case – Teri ICC members subjected to hostile environment #Vaw


sexual harassment
INTIMIDATED? ICC members subjected to a hostile environment Seeks clarification on authority for protection of ICC members
The Inter nal Complaints Committee (ICC) of think-tank TERI has written to the Ministry of Women and Child Development seeking clarification on the issue of protection for ICC members and witnesses in similar cases. The letter was written in the last week of May , shortly after the three member panel had indicted Rajendra K Pachauri, TERI’s Director on charges of sexual harassment at the workplace.The letter does not make any specific references to the investigation of allegations against Pachauri.Instead tone and tenor of the latter is that the ministry should put in place a mechanism to deal with potential problems that an internal probe can encounter.

In its report, the ICC had found that Pachauri’s conduct amounted to misuse of his position and violation of the organisation’s policy on sexual harassment.

The ICC has also recorded in its inquiry report that the Committee was “subject to a very hostile environment with pressure and intimidation from certain individuals within the organization, including visits to the internal ICC members’ homes at late hours,“ according to people familiar with the report.

The ICC, in its report, requested TERI to protect the members of the panel and described the environment at the time of preparation of the report as “hostile and intimidating“. ET has also learnt that in its letter the ICC asked the Ministry to clarify as to which authority , as per the Sexual Harassment Act, is supposed to protect witnesses and ICC members in case of threat or intimidation.

The letter does not specifically refer to its own experiences while preparing the report, though the report indeed records such instances, according to the people cited earlier.

Raising another significant issue, the Committee has sought clarity as to who should be the authority responsible for taking action in a case where the head of the organization has been indicted on charges of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Another query raised by the Committee in its letter to the Ministry was as to what is the mandate of an ICC if the respondent asks for extension of time beyond the stipulated 90 days. As per the Sexual Harassment Act, an ICC has to conclude its inquiry within 90 days. It is pertinent to mention here that Pachauri had asked the Committee to extend the inquiry period beyond 90 days. However, in the absence of any provision under the Act which empowers the Committee to extend the deadline, this was denied.

The ICC had recommended disciplinary action against Pachauri by TERI and also recommended payment of compensation to the victim by the 74 year old scientist. However, on May 30, an Industrial Tribunal stayed the operation of the report after Pachauri moved the Tribunal alleging that “principles of natural justice“ were not followed.

Last week, a lower court allowed Pachauri to rejoin TERI except the head office in the habitat centre and the Gurgaon office, where the complainant has been transferred to. As per available information, the complainant will file an appeal against this order.


Throwing Ethics Out of Window

Teri’s internal committee indicted RK Pachauri two months ago. Which means that even though the cases of sexual harrassment against the Teri chief are pending trial, the board members have no longer any excuse to keep him in their fold. An organisation is as good as its reputation. When Teri’s internal committee itself has recommended disciplinary action, confirming Pachauri as a sexual offender, for its board to continue to stay mum on the matter will be nothing short of throwing ethics and the basics of corporate responsibility out of Teri’s Lodhi Road office window.

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