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Rajendra Pachauri

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Former head of climate change panel to stand trial for harassment

A court in New Delhi on Friday ordered Rajendra Pachauri, former head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to stand trial on criminal charges alleging that he sexually harassed a former colleague.

The woman filed a police complaint against Pachauri, 78, in February 2015, and he stepped down from IPCC that month. Women’s rights and legal activists have since charged that authorities have been slow to act on that allegation and complaints that Pachauri harassed other women.

Pachauri, who denies the allegations, faces up to 3 years in prison if convicted.

The woman who filed the 2015 complaint alleged that after she began to work at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in 2013, an environmental think tank in New Delhi where Pachauri was director general, he made “constant requests to have a romantic and physical relationship” with her and kissed and grabbed her inappropriately. When she refused his advances, she says, he threatened to retaliate by not giving her work or transferring her. As a result, she quit in November 2015.

She gave police thousands of text messages and emails allegedly involving Pachauri. In March 2016, police filed a 1467-page charge sheet against him. That same month, TERI decided not to renew Pachauri’s employment.

“The case is absolutely concocted, baseless, without any material, and has been filed to defame Dr. Pachauri,” his lawyer, Ashish Dixit, told ScienceInsider. 

What’s more, Pachauri filed a pending defamation lawsuit against another woman, who alleged in 2016 that he sexually harassed her a decade earlier while she was working at TERI. That woman also said she resigned because of the harassment.