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Rediff.com  » Cricket » BCCI sexual harassment controversy takes new turn

BCCI sexual harassment controversy takes new turn

November 27, 2018 08:49 IST

'What authority does Vinod Rai have to take such a decision and overrule Diana Edulji?'
'The big shock was that the female employee who accused Rahul Johri was not even called to depose before the probe panel.'

Rahul Johri

IMAGE: BCCI CEO Rahul Johri was cleared of sexual harassment charges by a three-member probe panel. Photograph: BCCI

Controversy and the Board of Control for Cricket in India often go hand in hand.

The latest saga in the Indian cricket board's roller-coaster ride of recent years is the clearance granted to its CEO Rahul Johri in the sexual harassment case.

The first allegation against Johri was through an anonymous e-mail accusing him of sexual misconduct, shared by a Twitter handle which later deleted the post. The accuser claimed to be an ex-colleague of Johri at a previous job.

There were subsequently two more allegations, one from a Singapore-based media professional and another woman, who worked with Johri in one of his previous organisations.

There were also allegations against Johri about inappropriate behaviour with a female employee of the BCCI.

 

A three-member probe panel, comprising retired Justice Rakesh Sharma, former chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women Barkha Singh, and Veena Gowda, a women's rights lawyer, investigated the charges against Johri before he was cleared.

Justice Sharma and Singh ruled in Johri's favour, calling the allegations 'fabricated'. Gowda highlighted Johri's 'unprofessional' conduct on one occasion and advised gender sensitivity counselling for him.

Committee of Administrators chief Vinod Rai thereafter allowed the BCCI CEO to resume his duties despite strong opposition from fellow COA member Diana Edulji who was of the view that Johri should not continue in office.

'Ms Edulji pointed out -- it has been her stand right from the beginning -- that the BCCI's reputation is of prime importance. In the circumstances, Ms Edulji said the fact that Ms Gowda recommended that Mr Johri should undergo gender sensitisation counselling/training is sufficient for her to arrive at the conclusion that he is not fit to be the CEO of BCCI,' a statement from the COA issued after a part of the probe panel's findings were made public on November 21.

'Accordingly, she expressed the view that the report of the committee is actually a split 2:1 verdict and Mr Johri should be asked to tender his resignation with immediate effect,' the statement added.

This has prompted Aditya Verma, the man responsible for the biggest shake-up in Indian cricket, to swing back into action.

Verma has slammed the committee's findings and even went as far as calling the investigation "fixed".

"The probe panel was fixed. If you check the Supreme Court order on January 30, 2017, Vinod Rai was named head of the four-man Committee of Administrators; he was only supposed to preside over meetings and be chairman of the committee, but he was not given any extra power. How can Vinod Rai, without taking permission from the Supreme Court, constitute a probe panel?" Verma asked Rediff.com's Harish Kotian..

"The vote was 1-1 between the two people (Rai and Edulji) in the COA. So how did Rai go ahead and make the decision (to allow Johri to resume work)? What authority does Vinod Rai have to take such a decision and overrule Diana Edulji? The inquiry was completely fixed," a livid Verma told Rediff.com.

"The female BCCI employee who accused Johri was not even called to depose before the probe panel," Verma added.

Rai, on his part, has justified his stand, saying since there was no consensus between the two members, Johri should not be asked to quit.

Aditya Verma

IMAGE: Aditya Verma slammed the probe panel's findings in the Rahul Johri sexual harassment case. Photograph: BCCI

'Since there is no consensus between the two members of the Committee of Administrators regarding what action should be taken against Mr Rahul Johri, the chairman stated that the natural consequence would be that Mr Johri continues as the CEO of BCCI and is entitled to resume office. Ms Edulji disagreed with this. However, the chairman reiterated that Mr Rahul Johri should continue as the CEO of BCCI and resume his duties, as a natural consequence,' read the COA statement.

Verma deposed before the three-member probe committee along with former BCCI anti corruption unit head Neeraj Kumar and former Mumbai player Shishir Hattangadi.

Clearly unhappy with Rai's ruling, Verma insisted he will now raise this issue in the Supreme Court.

"I support Diana Edulji's views that women employees in the BCCI are not comfortable in Rahul Johri's presence," Verma said. "I will raise this issue in the Supreme Court on November 27 through my lawyer."

"And please remember that the only person who has the right to challenge this panel is me, because I filed the original petition to clean up the functioning of the BCCI," emphaised Verma.

"This matter is also related to improvement in the running of the BCCI, I am the petitioner in this case, the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court and I will raise the issue again on November 27."

"All this was only done to save Rahul Johri."

Harish Kotian / Rediff.com