NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indian police are investigating claims that the one of world’s top climate change officials, Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sexually harassed a 29-year-old woman, police and lawyers said on Friday.
The woman, who is a researcher at Pachauri’s Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), claims the 74-year-old Indian scientist began harassing her soon after she joined the non-profit think-tank in September 2013.
Pachauri has denied the charges, according to a court order sent to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by the public relations firm acting on behalf by TERI. Pachauri’s office said he was unavailable to comment and his lawyers refused to comment.
“There are a few charges we are investigating,” said a police official, who did not want to be named.
The case comes at a difficult time as Pachauri is playing a key role in the run-up to a crucial climate change summit in Paris in December where world leaders are expected to agree a new deal to curb global warming.
He is due to speak at an IPCC event in Nairobi on Monday and attend a major meeting there for the rest of the week.
The IPCC, however, will elect a new chair at a session planned for October and Pachauri, who was first elected as the panel’s chair in 2002, will not stand for a third term.
The lawyers for the woman, who cannot be named, said the harassment included unwanted emails, text and WhatsApp messages.
Prashant Mendiratta, one of the woman’s lawyers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that victim had asked Pachauri to refrain from sending her messages, but that he had persisted.
Pachauri was granted a court injunction against the media reporting the case on Tuesday. In the court order, Pachauri’s lawyers claim his emails, mobile phone and WhatsApp messages were hacked and that cyber criminals accessed his computer and phone to send the messages in an attempt to malign him.
“It is urged that the plaintiff is being targeted by various vested interests,” said the court order.
On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court changed its decision saying it had to keep “in view the liberty of the press” and lifted the injunction against the media.
Pachauri has been granted anticipatory bail by the court until Feb. 23 which means police cannot take him into custody until then. Sources close to Pachauri said that he has given police access to his mobile phone and computer.
Pachauri has been the chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002, and is one of the world’s leading voices on the issue of global warming.
In 2007, the IPCC was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for their part in galvanizing international action against climate change.
Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith