news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute Editorial| February 25, 2015| 11.00 pm IST

It is interesting to see how "on the other hand" conversation kicks in every time a famous man faces a charge of sexual harassment. In the case of Dr. R.K. Pachauri, former chairman of UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), his scientific research is the safety net thrown out by some friends and well-wishers.

“Notwithstanding grave accusations against him, Dr Pachauri is a scientific researcher par excellence for his climate change mitigation work”

Thus spoke Congress leader Milind Deora through a tweet.

One is tempted to respond with a 140 character rejoinder: “Nobody is questioning is professional credentials, why conflate that with allegations of sexual harassment?”

But this sort of response in connection with the accused, is very similar to the one that is made in connection with the victim: “What was she doing there at this hour?” or “why was she dressed like that?”

In both cases, the observations or details have no connection to the accusations or alleged crimes. Why then, are such responses always seen or heard when sexual offences are alleged to have occurred?

Why this need to somehow salvage the personality or character of the accused? Similar responses had been seen when founder Editor of Tehelka magazine was accused of raping a junior colleague. There were hints about what a great journalist Tejpal was and loud comments about how he was being targeted politically by his opponents for his critical stance on the RSS and BJP.

Tejpal’s work as a journalist should be judged with the standards and ethics of good journalism, and so should Pachauri’s work by the standards of his profession. In this case, the "on the other hand" band played out by saying the victim asked to be raped, she is that sort of a girl, etc.

But the real dilemma is, what do we make of Pachauri the person or Tejpal the person? Men who take advantage of their powerful positions or just stalkers on the prowl in their offices, in official settings, in national and international events? How are we to reconcile the work they have done with the accusations against them?

In the case of Dr. Pachauri, the First Information Report (FIR) of which TNM has copy reads like a stalker in a low-grade film.

Ideally, we should wait until the trial to conclude to pass judgment on that. Until then, let us ensure that due process is followed, and that a fair trial is carried out.

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