Woman files sexual harassment case against her boss. Boss gets sacked from a bunch of posts, including a prestigious international one. Boss then goes to court and gets an order to start being able to visit office again. It then turns out that Boss wasn’t sacked at all but was just on leave. Woman leaves organisation. Boss is promoted to a new post higher than his original post. 

This, in brief, is the case of TERI’s RK Pachauri. And it’s perhaps the first case where a man has managed to get himself promoted from Director to Executive Vice Chairman while facing allegations of sexual harassment. 

To best understand what has happened here take a look at the facts. The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) had a director general in the form of Pachauri. Pachauri had to leave because of the allegations. But his successor Ajay Mathur, couldn’t take charge until February. Teri’s chairman has no executive powers and as this report pointed out there wasn’t the post of a vice chairman. 

b’Pachauri in a file photo. Source: Reuters’

So what has Teri done? It suddenly created a whole new post of executive vice chairman for its shamed former director general. So basically it’s allowing the 76-year-old Pachauri to hold on to a job in Teri with his nails, even as the organisation gets a new director general. It’s not even very clear whose in charge any more.

Basically, he’s gone from having a whole lot of power, to suffering a brief period of public shaming and then back to a position of power he occupied at Teri. To understand the sheer abuse of power in this case by the organisation’s governing council and Pachauri himself, remember that he was removed as the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IGPCC). 

The IGPCC is an international body of scientists that makes periodic assessment of climate change science, and they chose not to bring him back to the post, despite him being at the helm when it won a Nobel Prize. Why? Because the case still remains in a court of law and you basically have a man who has been accused of sexual harassment. 

The victim, meanwhile, has had to quit her job after facing pressure from seniors to drop the charges against Pachauri. In her letter she had said: 

“TERI failed to uphold my interests as an employee, let alone protecting them. The organisation has instead protected R K Pachauri and provided him full immunity, despite being held guilty of sexual harassment by your own inquiry committee.” 

But with the reinstatement of Pachauri the switch in roles is complete. As Sandip Roy notes in a piece in Huffington Post, Pachauri is now the victim who has emerged victorious, while the woman is gone. 

The woman and her complaint have become a footnote in the rise and rise of Pachauri. His case is effectively reduced to a minor transgression of an old man’s wandering eye. A boy’s club joke about him being unable to stop flirting. A temporary attempt to sully the Nobel laureate. Teri gets its face back, and all is presumably well, since evidently the organisation is built on such weak foundations that it can’t do without Pachauri. 

According to one report, incoming Director General Ajay Mathur in a call with the governing council of Teri said that bringing Pachauri back was a very bad idea. 

“If we add fuel to fire, TERI will get burnt down,” he had reportedly said. 

Well the governing council has just gone ahead and ignored its new director general. Now to see if he’s proven right. But given Pachauri’s current track record, don’t expect him to be heading for the fire exit any time soon.