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Rajendra Pachauri in 2011.

Rajendra Pachauri in 2011.

Kris Krüg for PopTech/Flickr

Former climate czar in hot water again over sexual harassment allegations

The former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, is once again in the crosshairs of the Indian media and women’s rights activists. The reason: his recent promotion at The Energy Research Institute (TERI) in New Delhi despite allegations that he sexually harassed a female colleague.

Pachauri, 75, served as TERI’s director and director-general from April 2001 until his promotion on Monday to executive vice chairman. He is facing charges of sexual harassment made against him in February 2015 by a 29-year-old TERI employee who has since resigned from her position. Pachauri denied the allegations and stepped down from IPCC last year. Last May, an internal TERI investigation concluded that his alleged actions constituted harassment, according to Indian media outlets. TERI has not commented on these reports, and it has taken no disciplinary action against him.  

His promotion this week sparked a media uproar—and elicited a fresh set of allegations. On Wednesday, a second former TERI employee released a statement alleging that Pachauri repeatedly sexually harassed her at TERI from 2003 to 2005. She claims to have quit her job after complaining in vain about the harassment to a senior colleague. Her lawyers, Ratna Appnender and Vrinda Grover, last February filed a police report on her behalf. “We wanted the police to take action, which they haven’t done so far,” Appnender says.

More than 20 students due to graduate at TERI University’s convocation next month released a statement yesterday that they would refuse to accept their degrees from Pachauri. “We decided as a student body we couldn’t stay silent,” said Ezra Lawanker Rynjah, a master’s student.

Pachauri is on voluntary leave from TERI and has opted out of the graduation ceremony, he told ScienceInsider in an email. “I have a large amount of writing to do, which is the reason for this decision, and I would also focus on several other pending matters,” he wrote. He and TERI’s spokesperson have not responded to ScienceInsider’s requests for comments regarding the fresh allegations.  

In 2013, India passed the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act and Rules, which requires all employers to address allegations of sexual harassment. TERI has failed in its legal obligations to provide a safe working environment, Grover asserted to the Business Standard. TERI should take disciplinary action against Pachauri, contends Brototi Roy, another student who has refused to accept her degree from him. “He may have voluntarily taken leave,” she says. “But why is it still voluntary? We want to see some action. We want to see him held accountable.”