Former UN climate chief Pachauri expected to be charged over sexual harassment, court hears

A protester holds a placard during a protest against R.K. Pachauri in New Delhi on Feb 12, 2016.
A protester holds a placard during a protest against R.K. Pachauri in New Delhi on Feb 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indian police are expected to charge renowned climate scientist Rajendra K. Pachauri with crimes related to sexual harassment within the next two weeks after a year-long investigation into the case, a Delhi court heard.

The former chief of a United Nations climate panel was accused last February of sexual harassment by a 29-year-old researcher working at the Delhi-based think-tank The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) where Pachauri was Director General.

Police told the Delhi High Court - which was hearing a plea on Thursday by the woman's lawyer against granting Pachauri anticipatory bail - that their investigation was near completion and they would present a charge sheet within the next 15 days.

"If the court feels the charges are very serious, it is possible that they will reject Pachauri's request for anticipatory bail and then he could be arrested," said Prashant Mendiratta, lawyer for the complainant.

The woman claims Pachauri, 75, began harassing her soon after she joined the non-profit think-tank in September 2013 via email, Whatsapp and text messaging, but Pachauri persisted despite her requests that he stop.

Pachauri - who quit as chair of the Nobel-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the allegation - denies the charges and has accused the complainant of using the media to sensationalise the case.

But Mendiratta said pressure was mounting on Pachauri as a second former TERI employee on Wednesday told Indian media she was also sexually harassed by the scientist between 2003 and 2004.

The woman, who cannot be named under Indian law, claimed that Pachauri had harassed her and many other employees.

"There has been a pattern to his sexual harassment. Not just me but a lot of female colleagues. His harassment was a topic of corridor gossip," the woman told New Delhi Television (NDTV). "He would stand very close, try to kiss or hold me, call me on weekends.

When I complained to TERI, I was laughed at," she said, adding that this why she did not lodge a police complaint.

Pachauri's lawyer Ramesh Gupta said that all the allegations being made by both women were false and fabricated.

"I know the police will file charges against my client, but it is all false allegations," Gupta told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "My client is being victimised. This is all concocted."

Pachauri headed the think-tank for more than 30 years. An internal inquiry committee of the think-tank found Pachauri guilty of misconduct and the organisation said it was removing him as director general. However he continued in the role until earlier this week, when he was appointed as TERI's executive vice-chairman.

Some students at TERI University who are due to graduate on March 7 have refused to accept their degrees from Pachauri, who is the university's chancellor.