Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri is being investigated under four sections of the Indian Penal Code. Maximum prison sentences of two, three, and seven years apply.
More information has emerged regarding a complaint filed with Indian police against Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to a front page story in today’s Economic Times, police are investigating the laying of charges under sections 354, 354A, 354D, and section 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
Calling this a “harassment complaint” fails to capture the seriousness of these allegations. In fact, these are criminal matters. The above-mentioned sections of the Penal Code stipulate maximum prison sentences of two, three, or seven years (see detailed breakdown at the bottom of this post).
The 29-year-old female complainant, an employee at Pachauri’s TERI institute, attended the police station with her lawyer six days ago. The Economic Times says the recording of her statement took an hour and a half. A previous article in that newspaper reported that her statement alleges a persistent pattern of groping and physical force on the part of Pachauri:
On many occasions, against my wishes and despite knowing that I am totally against any such behaviour/act, Dr Pachauri has grabbed my body by hugging me, holding my hands, forcibly kissing me and touching my body inappropriately.
The Economic Times says Pachauri’s lawyers went to court earlier this week, apparently in an attempt to prevent the news media from reporting on this matter. An injunction was issued, with the final copy of that court document taking 24 hours to become available.
Yesterday’s Economic Times story was removed from the newspaper’s website, but today’s continuing front page coverage suggests Pachauri’s lawyers were unsuccessful, perhaps because certain police paperwork had yet to be completed.
According to the Economic Times, a PR firm representing Pachauri has distributed a statement arguing that media coverage is not “prudent or appropriate” at this juncture.
Pachauri vehemently denies the allegations of sexual misconduct now under police investigation. He says his computers and other electronic devices were hacked, and that the 31 pages of electronic messages the complainant alleges she received from him (which comprise the bulk of her 33-page police complaint) are the work of “unknown cyber criminals.”
Many of the offenses described in these four sections of the Penal Code deal with physical behaviour rather than electronic communication.
Indian Penal Code Section 354 concerns force or sexual assault against a woman and is punishable by a fine, up to 2 years in prison, or both.
Section 354A says that “physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures” amount to sexual harassment – an offense that is punishable by a fine, “rigorous imprisonment” for up to three years, or both.
Section 354D deals with stalking. It applies to those who persist in following or contacting a woman “repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman.” Someone convicted of stalking for the first time risks a fine, up to three years imprisonment, or both.
Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code applies to the uttering of threats involving grievous harm, death, or arson. It also applies to threats that impute “unchastity to a woman.” The latter offense, says the code:
shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both. [bold]
There are two kinds of prison sentences in India. Rigorous imprisonment involves forced labour. Simple imprisonment does not.
Donna Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist and author of the 2013 book, Into the Dustbin: Rajendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize. See Amazon.com, Amazon India, and other Amazon stores.