Bengaluru: The controversial climate scientist R.K. Pachauri, who is battling charges of sexual harassment levelled by a woman colleague, was on Thursday sacked as chief of the prestigious TERI (The Energy Resources Institute), more than five months after the scandal broke out.
In his stead, the 74-year-old Ajay Mathur, Director General of Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), has been appointed Director General.
The decision to show the door to Pachauri as Director General of the not-for-profit think-tank was taken by its Governing Council, which features some influential names from India’s corporate circles, at a meeting held here.
“The Governing Council of TERI at its meeting held in Bangalore took a decision to appoint Dr Ajay Mathur, currently Director General of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Government of India, as the Director General of TERI,” the environment body said in a statement.
However, the decision was slammed by women and legal activists who attacked the council for “delaying” the removal of Pachauri and described the TERI statement as “scandalous”.
“It is a delayed step. He should have been asked to step down in February 2015, when the complaint was made, so that there could have been an internal complaint committee inquiry and a proper investigation,” said Vrinda Grover, a lawyer and a human rights activist.
The activists also said Pachauri had been replaced not because of his guilt but as a matter of routine replacement.
Pachauri had quit as the chairman of the Nobel-Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this year after the woman alleged in her complaint that he’d sent her inappropriate emails, text and WhatsApp messages – charges that were denied by him.
“Pachauri will not continue, the long term interest of TERI is paramount,” Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chief of biotech giant Biocon and a member of the Governing Council, told PTI after the meeting.
The Council also includes non-executive Chairman of the Board of HDFC Deepak Parekh; banker Naina Lal Kidwai; veteran investment banker Hemendra Kothari; and Earth Sciences Secretary Shailesh Naik.
Ajay Mathur will take up his new responsibilities as soon as he is in a position to do so, subsequent to being relieved from his current responsibilities by the Government of India after a brief period of transition, the TERI statement said.
“Pachauri has led and built TERI over the last 34 years from a concept to a major, financially autonomous, professionally dynamic organisation on the global stage,” the statement added, following that up with a note that the decision to appoint Mathur was the culmination of an extensive search process and an intensive evaluation of candidates from across the globe.
“All efforts will be made to aid and assist Dr. Ajay Mathur in a smooth and expeditious transition, as the latter assumes responsibility as TERI’s new chief executive,” it said.
The council also asserted that the 1,200 persons working for TERI in different parts of the world would “welcome this development, and extend all their support towards a smooth transition.”
The Delhi court’s decision last week allowing Pachauri access to all TERI offices in the country except the ones in Delhi and Gurgaon had come after the police sought cancellation of his anticipatory bail, saying he was influencing witnesses and misusing liberties.
Pachauri had told the court that there was “nothing on record to suggest that he has ever influenced witnesses or any other persons related to the present case or interfered in the investigation.”
The complainant, a research analyst, had alleged in her application that a “free and fair investigation” cannot be carried out if Pachauri was “allowed to roam around freely”.
“There are other women who have approached me saying that he had sexually harassed them. We have offered certain evidences to the police.”
“I have personally written letters detailing the nature of the evidence to DCP South, Premnath, and the police commissioner in March. We never received any response. The police have refused to take the evidence on record,” she said.
Noted lawyer Indira Jaising said that Pachauri should have been removed the day complaint was lodged. “This should have happened the day she (victim) had lodged a complaint of sexual harassment. All organisations have their service rules, which includes the power to suspend a person.”
Questioning the working of the governing board of the organisation, Jaising said it had failed to perform perform its duty. “What prevented them from suspending him?” she asked. “He was on voluntary leave and was not even there to guide the organisation.”