The researcher, who accused former Teri chief RK Pachauri of sexual harassment, talks about why she plans to continue pursuing the course of justice
New Delhi: A year after she first levelled charges of sexual harassment, stalking and criminal intimidation against Rajendra Pachauri, then director-general of Teri (The Energy and Resources Institute), the woman researcher is now out of the think tank while her alleged tormentor has just been appointed executive vice-chairman, a post especially created for him.
In an interview with Mint, the researcher, who wants to remain anonymous, talks about recent events, and why she plans to continue pursuing the course of justice.
How do you look back and view events ever since you filed your complaint both with the internal complaints committee (ICC) and with the police in February last year?
The ICC was constituted formally only when my complaint was made public knowledge. The police registered a first information report (FIR) five days after my complaint to them.
I didn’t think that the ICC would be able to bring out the truth. I had little faith in them, but at the end of the inquiry, I have nothing but immense respect for the three women on the panel who did their job despite an environment of intimidation and hostility—Teri employees visiting their homes late at night when the report was being prepared. This is a fact stated in the ICC report itself, as per news reports.
The whole process has been exhausting and my health has suffered as a result. But I wonder why I was made to undergo the inquiry by Teri when the governing council (GC) did not want to uphold the outcome. The GC had 10 days, from 19 May (when the ICC report was given) to 29 May (the date on which Pachauri obtained a stay from the Industrial Labour Tribunal), to take action.
What were they doing for those 10 days? Action is usually taken overnight. He (Pachauri) should have been suspended pending the inquiry. But no disciplinary action has ever been initiated against him.
The police were aggressive initially but then anticipatory bail was granted to Pachauri and a very able officer was transferred out of my case. This officer had spent a lot of time going through the evidence submitted by me, which goes into hundreds of pages. The police have said in their status report that they want custodial interrogation of the accused. They have also stated that Teri is not cooperating in the investigation. To date, the police have not been allowed access to Teri’s internal servers.
The police had to wait for permission from the government of Delhi to move the high court for Pachauri’s bail cancellation. While the wait was long, I had asked my counsel to not wait for the police to move the high court because time was of the essence. The forensic reports are also awaited and I am apprehensive that these reports should not be sabotaged.
The police need to be more pro-active. The officers working directly on my case want to do the right thing. But the seniors do not seem to be able to strategise well. They seem clueless on a firm strategy, and systemic delays such as from the forensic lab just do not help.
Yet, I should say that the police have been sensitive in their dealings with me and I was not asked any ridiculous or unwarranted questions. But the junior officers cannot do much as their hands remain tied owing to bureaucratic ways of working within most establishments.
Who or what has been your support system?
My family and some friends have been very supportive. I would remain exhausted and fatigued for most days...I wouldn’t have the time or energy to pack in a day of normal routine. A lot was going on in my life. I had to find a new job and pace myself with the ongoing litigations. Visits to my doctor were frequent. I had no rest. I used to be completely drained out.
The ones who ideally should have spoken out remained quiet and continue to be involved. That was a huge shock and made me feel pathetic. Many colleagues did reach out in support, but at the same time did not want to do anything about it because they feared for their jobs. At the end of the day, it is made out to be someone else’s problem and not theirs. My lawyers have been most supportive. Prashant Mendiratta has stood by me like a rock. His entire team at the law firm has been there for me throughout. Indira Jaising is fighting for my cause. I feel very grateful and express gratitude to their selfless work ethics and raring-to-go attitude.
When the ICC ruled in your favour, did you ever think that justice would continue to elude you nearly one year later?
It took me more than four hours to actually open the packet containing the ICC report and another week to go through it all. I had developed a fear of opening content coming from Teri. Their e-mails to me and other indirect actions had infused a rather nauseating feeling that I would have to work with my counselor to actually come around to going through my work e-mails and or reading through the entire ICC report. It was a mentally draining experience. I would read a few pages of the report and then put it aside only to pick it up after a few hours.
It was as emotionally, mentally and physically draining to comply with the ICC as it was to deal with the outcome. I was waiting to hear from Teri and the GC but I heard nothing. Teri would claim that they had no knowledge of the ICC outcome and that it was only known to higher-ups. I thought my troubles would end the moment I gave my complaint but it was me who was made to look like trouble. I was left to fend for myself.
Why did you quit your job?
I tendered my resignation because it was proving to be beyond my dignity to be associated with an organisation which did nothing to uphold my interests, given the nature of my complaint and the misconduct. Instead it protected the alleged perpetrator. My colleagues were being allegedly pressurised to convince me for an out-of-court settlement. I could not have gone back to that environment. It was turning from bad to worse. I was worried about my own well-being. I quit in my best interests.
Did you feel somewhat vindicated when (Biocon Ltd chairperson) Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw quit the GC? Should the GC have taken a greater role in supporting you? Do you feel let down by them?
I do not know when exactly Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw quit from the GC. I only read the media reports that emerged much later. If women in such senior positions, working fairly independently, were unable to address an issue such as mine, then it fails the very premise of asking me why I waited for 17 months before complaining about Pachauri.
It is unfortunate that she had to resign on a matter of principle and that the GC board did not take cognizance of it. It is easy to stand with everyone together, but takes a lot to stand alone. I will not elaborate on what the GC should have or should not have done. I will not dignify them with my thoughts at this stage. They are adults, corporate leaders and it is most unfortunate if they require tutoring on something that a layman can understand well.
The government has apparently refused to get involved, do you think it should? Why?
I do not know exactly what this is in reference to. The hon’ble high court had issued notices to the UoI (Union of India) via MoEF (ministry of environment and forests), MEA (ministry of external affairs) and BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) in my matter. It shall now be heard on 3 March, 2016.
Are you determined to continue your legal battle against Pachauri? Is that your only hope for justice now?
There is no reason for me not to continue. I was very clear since the beginning that I want to take this to its logical conclusion. It is easier to stand my ground; the ground that I believe in. I am fighting for my dignity.
What are your future career plans? Are you working somewhere now?
Yes, I am working now and in a much better professional space as compared to Teri. My work is valued and my interests, as an employee, are upheld. I have my hands full with responsibilities and various projects. I have chosen to take on multiple roles to make up for lost time on account of not being allowed to work by Teri and the time lost before I made my complaint.
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