R.K. Pachauri is suing Vrinda Grover for making the statements of the two women public.
Ever since the woman employee accused TERI chief Pachauri of sexual harassment in February 2015, a number of criticisms have been made about the manner in which various parties have either handled or responded to the case.
Activists and commentators have criticised the organisation’s governing council for failing to remove Pachauri from his position as TERI’s chief for several months following the complaint. The organisation itself has come under fire for failing to take action against Pachauri, despite the fact that its own internal complaints committee found him guilty of the charges.
Almost a year after the complaint was made, Pachauri was appointed the Executive Vice Chairman of the organisation, and later, a decision was made to send him on paid leave. The complainant quit the organisation after the organisation failed to take action against Pachauri, and changed her work profile without consulting her.
Over a year after the original complaint was filed, TERI’s governing council finally decided to sever all ties with him, in a meeting earlier this week.
Journalists have been criticised for releasing pictures of the complainant without blurring the complainant’s name. Her identity has also been revealed by TERI, by the Delhi high court and by the Delhi police. The Guardian has been slammed for carrying a piece about the case, written by John Vidal, which completely neglects to cover the complainant’s side of the story.
Pachauri’s own conduct has come under scrutiny, though clearly not enough to keep him from going on work trips abroad and generally behaving as though he was not under investigation for extremely serious allegations. His attempts to gag the media and police complaints about him attempting to influence witnesses and hamper the investigation were noted.
It is, therefore, clear that many things have not gone as they should have in an investigation of this nature. Recent developments make it clear that the actions of the Delhi police need to be similarly scrutinised by commentators.
Lawsuit against Vrinda Grover
Earlier this month, Pachauri filed an injunction against Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover and sought damages of 1 crore rupees. He also served injunctions to three media houses. Pachauri’s counsel Ashish Dixit, who has himself made several disparaging remarks to the media about Grover, said that she was prejudicing the case “by strategically releasing damning and unsubstantiated statements to the media.”
Pachauri’s main complaint has to do with the public release of two statements given by two women who have come forward following the filing of the original FIR against Pachauri. The first of these complainants is based in Delhi, and worked in TERI in 2003. The second is a European national who was employed at TERI in 2008.
After the release of the European woman’s statement Dixit told Outlook magazine: “It is a conspiracy by Vrinda Grover to defame Pachauri. Every time a woman is said to make allegations, it is only to press, not to police or court.”
However, correspondence by Grover sent to Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi) Prem Nath, then-Police Commissioner Bhim Bassi, and to the investigating officer (which has been seen by The Wire) reveals that the two complainants who have come forward after the filing of the original complaint have both expressed willingness to record their statements with the police. It is the police who have failed to record these statements.
Attempts to reach the police
In a letter dated March 5, 2015, Grover writes to Prem Nath, “The two women have narrated to me specific incidents where Mr. R.K. Pachauri through his actions, has intentionally and knowingly, sexually harassed, misbehaved with and intruded upon their privacy. The two women have worked at TERI under Mr. R.K. Pachauri (and) therefore can provide relevant and material facts having a direct bearing on the conduct of the accused in the above mentioned FIR. (…) It is reiterated that both my clients wish to provide you with facts that are relevant and pertinent to the above mentioned FIR.”
Grover says that she was waiting for Prem Nath to respond to her about recording the statements of the two women, and that she did not receive any communication from either him or the IO about doing so. She adds that her SMS to Nath has gone unanswered.
In subsequent letters to Bassi, Nath and the IO dated July 7 2015, February 13 2016 and April 14, 2016, Grover reiterates the importance of the two women’s statements, and their willingness to record them, and has requested the police to respond.
In the final letter, she writes, “For almost a year, both my clients have patiently waited for the police to contact them, record their statements and take necessary steps in accordance with law. However, as the Police made no efforts in this regard, on their request their statements were made public.”
In a letter to Sudha Chaudhary, Law Officer at the National Commission for Women, and responding to questions by the Commission on why neither of her two clients had complained to the police, Grover writes: “On behalf of both my clients, I have repeatedly requested senior officers of the Delhi Police and the investigating officer to take necessary steps in accordance with law. (…) It is extremely unfortunate that in a case of this nature the police is conducting itself in a partisan manner and concealing the deliberate omission on the part of the police to take necessary steps in accordance with the law.”
Why did the Delhi Police not act?
It is clear from the correspondence that it is only after repeated attempts were made to go to the police were the statements made public by Grover.
Considering the years separating the three women’s employment at the TERI, the claims made by Pachauri in his defense — that his phone and computers have been hacked, that this is an international conspiracy against him, and that the original complainant was the one pursuing Pachauri — can collapse in the face of the two other complaints against him.
It is therefore baffling as to why the Delhi Police did not record the statements of two complainants which are so directly relevant to the case, and, as Grover has argued, can provide crucial information about Pachauri’s conduct at the workplace.