Why is RK Pachauri being allowed to go back to work again? The director general of the The Energy and Resources Institute, accused of molesting a 29-year-old colleague, is currently fighting sexual harassment charges in court. On Friday, a Delhi court allowed him to enter all TERI premises except the headquarters, where the director general's office is located, and the Gurgaon office, where the complainant is posted. The same day, after a meeting with senior officials, Pachauri announced his return.

The charges against Pachauri may not have been upheld in court yet, but his return violates all the norms and decencies of the workplace. In May, TERI's own internal probe into the matter yielded a most damning report. It found Pachauri guilty of misusing his position and breaking the norms of the organisation's sexual harassment policy. The investigating committee also noted that the complainant's health had been "adversely affected" because of the stress caused by Pachauri's conduct.

Since charges were filed in February, other women have also spoken up, recounting how they were harassed by Pachauri over the years. They paint a grim picture of a repeat offender who used his power to enforce silence on his victims and win immunity for his actions. Despite these circumstances, the senior officials and governing council of TERI have seen fit to usher Pachauri back into his chair.

They were not even deterred by the obvious resistance among TERI employees, who contemplated going on strike but then decided to appeal to the governing council. And there lies another worrying aspect of the case. The 10 members of the governing council are some of the biggest, most influential names in corporate India, including HDFC chairman Deepakh Parekh, Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon. Their actions would set the tone for how corporates in this country treat their employees, how much stress is laid on gender equality in the workplace. Their inaction now sends this troubling signal – offences like molestation should not be allowed to get in the way of real business.

Indian workplaces have traditionally had a troubled relationship with the women they employ. The Vishaka guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997 defined offences that constituted sexual harassment as well as a framework for prevention, disciplinary action and criminal proceedings. Most companies, though, had only a nodding acquaintance with the guidelines since they were not legally enforceable. When the substance of the Vishaka judgment was inscribed in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, it seemed a victory for gender equality in the office. Clearly not. You can pass a law but the Indian workplace is yet to come of age.