Fast-track trial against Pachauri

Fast-track trial against Pachauri

Indian former UN climate panel chief Rajendra Pachauri. AFP

A Delhi court’s order for framing of charges against former IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel of Climate Change) chairman RK Pachauri in a sexual harassment case may be seen as a positive by many, because it shows that the case has made some progress and may now enter the trial stage. The victim of Pachauri’s alleged sexual advances has herself said that she is happy and relieved, but also that it was not easy and she is exhausted fighting Pachauri. Unfortunately, going by the history of the charges and the movement of the case, there is more room for doubt than for hope about its outcome. It is three years since the First Information Report (FIR) was filed on the basis of charges levelled by a former employee of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) against Pachauri, who was its managing director. She had complained that he had sent her many sexually explicit messages and made “carnal and perverted’’ advances during the 16 months they had worked together. A charge-sheet was filed one year later, and the police had said that there was enough evidence against him, but the case did not pick up pace.

Serious charges like these called for speedier investigation, but it took three years for them to be presented to court. An internal inquiry made by TERI had found that the woman’s charges were “valid’’. The police had also dismissed as false Pachauri’s allegation that her evidence was made up. But in the last three years, the woman and others who supported her, including the person who led the internal inquiry, have had to leave TERI. Pachauri, who resigned as the MD in the wake of the charges, returned to the Institute as its vice-chairman. Two other women also came forward with similar charges against Pachauri but their cases have also not moved forward. One of them has been slapped with defamation charges by Pachauri. 

Pachauri is a powerful person who headed an international organisation that won the Nobel Prize. He challenged the internal enquiry of TERI and tried in many ways to block the case or to slow it down. The law may be taking its course, but it is a very slow course. Delaying justice amounts to denying it. The Supreme Court has time and again made this point, especially in relation to cases of sexual violence and advances directed against women and in cases where there is an unequal relationship of power between the parties. Pachauri will continue to try to delay the case as it suits and benefits him, but justice demands that it is fast-tracked and decided earliest. 

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