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The Observer's piece on Pachauri is just one side of the story

Vishakh Unnikrishnan | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:04 IST

RK Pachauri just got a sympathetic portrayal, that too from the Observer - a weekly published by the UK-based Guardian Media Group on Sunday.

The former director of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) is accused of sexually harassing a female colleague. The charges were made in February last year. He has been the director general of TERI for more than three decades.

The Observer quotes Pachauri in a series of email exchanges, involving a meeting with the ex-director of Teri, where Pachauri alleges that his email account was hacked, the accuser was "acting for money", and that the entire episode was a set-up to trap him by "persons unknown".

Also read: Shady deal: how a bunch of eminent people let RK Pachauri get away, again

According to the article, Pachauri suspects those resenting his work against climate change orchestrated the incident to "destroy" him.

The Guardian article

Pachauri alleges that after being elected to lead the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2002, the panel was "vilified by climate sceptics and right-wing free-market think-tanks, often known to have been funded by powerful fossil-fuel interests".

Take a look at the article's moot points:

  • Pachauri "suspects strongly, but cannot prove, that there has been a coordinated attempt to destroy him professionally and personally and that money may also be involved."
  • Excerpts from alleged conversations between the complainant and the accused.
  • "Pachauri was enamored by the women".
  • Emails allegedly sent by the complainant to Pachauri were also published.
  • The complainant was 'flirting' with the accused.

Pachauri's allegations were replied to by the lawyer of the complainant, who herself spoke to Catch, disappointed with the published article.

Also read: Documents show Pachauri's position as TERI Uni head untenable

"The responses sent by my lawyer do not appear in the article published today, for reasons not known to me or my legal team," she told Catch.

Pachauri's vs the complainant

1. The complainant access his email accounts and his electronic files, including personal correspondence and poems written over the years.

"The complainant was creating and assembling an archive of images, for a period of 16 months," Pachauri alleged.

The complainant says: "If the Guardian, as told by my lawyers, claim to have seen emails showing hacking, why aren't these documents before the court?"

Prashant Mendiratta, her lawyer, said Pachauri was "unable to establish that his emails were hacked, and did not at the appropriate time inform the Cyber Cell of Delhi Police." He also alleged that only one of his counsels, who appeared in court, out of several, was able to establish that his email was hacked.

"There are emails, SMS messages and WhatsApp messages which categorically prove to the contradictory. It is a blatant lie being stated by Mr Pachauri," said the complainant's lawyer.

2. According to Pachauri, the complainant had approached her first: "She (the complainant) actively flirted with me and aggressively encouraged a deeper relationship between us."

But the complainant told Catch: "how contradictory is it that on the one hand the accused states his account was hacked and on the other he states, 'some emails from me'."

Mendiratta said: "the complainant instructed me to say that at no point has she encouraged him or given him any reason to make inappropriate physical contact or demand sexual favours. My client clearly stated that Mr Pachauri has sexually harassed him not only through emails, message, WhatsApp but also inappropriately made physical contact."

Also read: RK Pachauri expected a smooth return to TERI, until hell broke loose

"My client states that she has provided all the evidence from day one of the association of my client with the office to the police which includes correspondence both ways and it is not a one sided correspondence like the way Mr Pachauri provided the Internal Complaints Committee," he added.

Pachauri, however, alleged: "there was a light and friendly tone to our correspondence, but at no stage did I ever hint at having a physical relationship nor did I in any way engage in sexual harassment."

3. In the article, Pachauri claims that he suspects strongly, but cannot prove, that "there has been a coordinated attempt to destroy him professionally and personally and that money may also be involved."

His lawyer Ashish Dixit told Catch the complainant could have done it for "money and promotions".

But Mendiratta said the complainant informed him that she has no association with anyone and is not targeting him or doing it for money. She had to complaint after Pachauri threatened her that if "she does not agree to his terms, he will make it impossible for her to pursue her academic goals and professional career anywhere else in the world."

"The complainant has informed me that Mr. Pachauri can be rest assured, she has not been approached by anyone at any point of time and it is just his acts which have cause immense pain and suffering to her for her to initiate cases against him," he added.

4. According to Pachauri, he was "curious" that the attacks on him was led by the the Economic Times (ET), as its former editor Swaminathan Aiyar is "a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington DC, which has funded many climate-sceptic think tanks".

Pachauri accuses Economic Times

Dixit said ET tried to defame his client on more than one occasion by timing the publishing of its reports close to when the hearing on the anticipatory case was scheduled and not being contacted by reporters or referred to for details on the case.

"The High Court itself has noted that the timing of such reports was 'intriguing,' which means there is suspicion," Dixit adds.

Also read: Pachauri complainant breaks silence: "hostility at TERI kept increasing"

When asked why there was a need to break the silence, Dixit said: "For the last one year he (Pachauri) hasn't spoke. But with the increasing negative coverage. The investigation is complete and the trial has not started. This is the ideal time to come forth and put the accused side of the story.

"The only published articles were chargesheet by the police. The journalists I talked to refused to publish correspondence sent by the complainant on the matter, which the Guardian chose to publish. Such skewed coverage warranted us to approach any media outlet ready to reflect the other side of the story, the side of the accused," Dixit added.

On the other hand, the complainant said: "It is extremely serious that 'evidence' in the case are being given to the media. I was never shown these said emails Pachauri talks off . I have categorically stated to the Guardian that it is I who has provided the entire correspondence to the Delhi Police which is both sides and not just one-sided," she added.

The article raised questions on how the complainant could afford paying for the lawyer, Mendiratta said no fees has been paid for the case.

The complaint told Catch she was "deeply disturbed" upon being asked about her lawyer and his fees: "I do not know what is being insinuated here. I could also question how designated senior counsels who appear on his behalf are paid."

The Guardian article presents a scenario that throws up a situation in which Pachauri could have been falsely accused. What should be noted, however, is just like climate change, sexual harassment at workplace is not a myth.

With inputs from Nihar Gokhale

More in Catch:

Petitioner as well as respondent: the curious case of RK Pachauri

Exclusive: TERI alumni say they will not accept degrees from RK Pachauri, ask him to step down

Stagnant wages, payment delays & eroding support: Jean Dreze on MGNREGA @10

First published: 28 March 2016, 12:30 IST
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description: Quipster.