In February 2015, a former employee at The Energy and Research Insitute, or TERI, wrote to the organisation’s internal complaints committee. She stated in her complaint that she had been sexually harassed by RK Pachauri—the founder and then TERI’s director general—over the year and a half she had worked with him. Four days later, she filed a police complaint against Pachauri. Over a year later, the Delhi Police filed a chargesheet before a metropolitan district court in Saket, charging Pachauri with sexual harassment, stalking, and criminal intimidation, among other offences. Meanwhile, the ICC proceeded with its inquiry—although its members faced constant hostility from their colleagues, even, according to its final report, “including visits to the internal ICC members’ home at late hours.”
In May 2015, the ICC found Pachauri guilty of sexual harassment. It recommended that TERI award damages to the complainant. But the organisation never acted on the committee’s report—soon after, Pachauri approached an industrial tribunal, asking for a stay on the report. The tribunal granted it. On 20 October 2018, over three years after the former employee first filed the police complaint, the court framed charges against Pachauri. The case against him continues to languish in the courts.
Below is a statement by the former TERI employee, regarding the events that have followed in the wake of allegations of sexual-harassment against the chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, by a former employee of the Supreme Court. On 6 May, the apex court announced through a notification on its website that an “in-house” committee found “no substance” in the allegations against the CJI.
It’s back—the anxiety, the tummy aches and the overall sinking feeling. As I watched a series of events unfold after a woman spoke out against one of the most powerful men in the country, I was starkly reminded of the incidents that followed my sexual-harassment complaint against the top boss at TERI. But even as I recall what the ICC had to endure, and the hostility I faced from the organisation, I still feel compelled to call myself lucky. At least I was able to participate in an ICC that was constituted under the sexual-harassment law. I had filed an FIR and media pressure was constant—without these, the proceedings may not have taken place at all. Still, “due process” took a lot out of me. My physical and mental health took a toll. My work suffered. I was left to wait endlessly for justice.
Several incidents, complaints, cases and counting, we seem to have learned nothing. “Due process” in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace is being done away with at the very institution that once guaranteed it. The power differential in this case—between a junior court employee and the chief justice of India—is being brazenly rubbed in our faces.