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India to put former top climate change official Rajendra Pachauri on trial for sexual harassment

Rajendra Pachauri, Founder of Protect our Planet Movement POP and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner on behalf of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, attends the third annual tech conference "Inno Generation" organized by French investment bank Bpifrance at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France, October 12, 2017. Picture taken October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A court has ordered the trial of sexual harassment charges against one of world’s leading climate change experts, Rajendra K. Pachauri, his lawyer said on Saturday.

The 78-year-old Pachauri, who had previously chaired the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, had stepped down from the panel in 2015 following a sexual harassment complaint by a researcher at Pachauri’s Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). Pachauri denies the charges and has sought a speedy trial due to his old age, his counsel Ashish Dikshit told Reuters.

Pachauri is accused of making physical advances, wrongful restraint, sending unwanted emails, and messages.

He goes on trial just as the #MeToo movement sweeps India with a large number of women accusing public figures in the media and entertainment industry of sexual misconduct. A minister of state resigned last week after women accused him of making physical advances in hotel rooms and in the office during his previous career as a journalist.

India is also considering tightening sexual harassment laws, government officials told Reuters last week.

The Delhi court has charged Pachauri under sections of the Indian Penal code including sexual harrassment and outraging the modesty of a woman.

The trial begins on Jan. 4, his counsel said.

Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Writing by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Sam Holmes