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Self-goal: Teri may be sued by sexual-harassment complainant

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 7 November 2015, 2:50 IST
QUICK PILL

Botched up

  • Employee who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment may sue Teri
  • She resigned from the organisation recently

Self-goal

  • Teri released details about the complainant to select journalists
  • It also asked the journalists to not edit the information arbitrarily

More in the story

  • Where does the case stand at the moment
  • How strong is the employee\'s position

The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) has scored a self-goal in its response to the resignation letter of an employee who had filed a sexual harassment case against Teri Director General RK Pachauri. The complainant may now sue the organisation for damages.

In her resignation letter, the complainant accused Teri of not initiating any action against Pachauri, among other allegations. The response of Teri, which plans to defend some of the charges, ends up breaking the sexual-harassment law.

Read-Internal revenge: TERI fills new sexual harassment committee with Pachauri's friends

On 4 November a media-relations executive from Teri emailed some journalists, defending the organisation. The mail revealed several details of the complainant, including:

* her educational qualifications (degrees and specialisation)

* the departments she worked for

* the date of joining and leaving one of the departments

* her area of residence ("just a few minutes from" a particular Teri office)

And to top it all, "we request that our response be published without arbitrary editing," the executive wrote in the email.

So Teri has given us two and two, insisting we put them together. But doing so is against the law.

According to Section 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013:

"Provided that information may be disseminated regarding the justice secured to any victim of sexual harassment under this Act without disclosing the name, address, identity or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the aggrieved woman and witnesses." (emphasis by us).

Contending that Teri's statement makes it easy to identify her, the complainant is considering filing a suit against Teri. This includes a case for damages to the complainant from having her identity revealed, according to a report in the Huffington Post.

The Act does not provide for any action beyond those prescribed in the organisation's own rules. The Act says that if anyone is found disclosing the identity of the complainant, he or she will be "...liable for penalty in accordance with provisions of the service rules applicable to the said person...".

Teri's statement, by the way, is quite unusual. Unlike its other press releases, it is just text and does not include the institute's logo or contact details.

It has also not been uploaded on the organisation's website, unlike its other press releases, Though, another release dated 4 November was uploaded - it was regarding a climate change seminar.

Case update: still no hearing

Meanwhile, there has been no progress with the sexual harassment case.

In May 2015, Teri's internal complaints committee held Pachauri guilty of sexually harassing the complainant. This remains, so far, the only 'guilty verdict', since the police hasn't completed its investigation.

On 29 May, 10 days after the ICC report, Pachauri got an ex parte stay order on the verdict from Delhi state's Industrial Tribunal. Being ex parte (meaning without other parties), neither the complainant nor Teri were given a chance to present their side.

The complainant now has to wait until 16 January for a hearing. Meanwhile she may sue Teri

In fact, one of the issues the complainant has with Teri is that it did not act on the ICC report. The law states that if an employee is found guilty of sexual harassment, the organisation has to take action as per its service rules.

The complainant said Teri had 10 days before the stay order was issued. "Why did they wait for 10 days before which Pachauri went and obtained an ex parte stay? What were they doing for those 10 days?" the complainant told Catch.

To be fair, Teri in its response filed before the tribunal has stood by its ICC.

Also read- Climate of change at TERI: RK Pachauri's reign ends finally

The case before the tribunal now includes an application by the complainant questioning the jurisdiction of the tribunal itself.

But over five months on, the case has still not been heard. The initial hearing on 9 September had to be adjourned because the Ministry of Women and Child Development (a respondent in the sexual harassment cases) had not filed its reply before the tribunal.

Next, 17 October was fixed as the hearing date. But two days before that, the presiding officer (i.e. the judge) of the tribunal was replaced, and the new officer went on leave.

After that 31 October was fixed as the date for hearing. But on that day, after receiving rejoinders and reply from all parties, the case was adjourned as the judge had to leave for an engagement at Vigyan Bhawan.

It has now been posted to 16 January, 2016, by when it would be more than seven months after the stay order, and nearly a year since the complaint was first filed.

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#WhatTheYoungThink: Who is anti-national? JNU responds to RSS allegation

First published: 7 November 2015, 2:50 IST
 
Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.

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