The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Committee of Administrators (CoA) has formed an independent panel to probe allegations of sexual harassment against its CEO Rahul Johri. However, the decision was not unanimous with the head of the CoA, Vinod Rai, gunning for an investigation, while the other member, Diana Edulji, insisting on the ourster of the under-fire CEO.
The three-member panel, to be chaired by Rakesh Sharma, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court, will include PC Sharma, former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director, and Barkha Singh, former chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, said a CoA statement issued on October 25.
The BCCI, on its part, will provide the panel all official documentation related to the allegations of harassment against Johri.
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“The independent committee is being requested to submit its report containing its findings and recommendations within 15 days. Johri will continue to remain on leave until the committee submits its report and the same is acted upon,” the statement read.
Earlier, CoA’s reluctance to act on the allegation attracted criticism from all quarters, including within the BCCI. According to a report in ESPN-Cricinfo, seven state associations wrote to the CoA and BCCI office bearers, demanding immediate suspension of Johri, pending inquiry. The associations wanted the allegation to be probed by an independent panel of three individuals, one each to be nominated by the state associations, the office-bearers, and the CoA.
Apparently, CoA’s quick action appointing the inquiry panel came soon after it received the letter.
Earlier in the month, the #MeToo movement hit BCCI when Johri was accused of sexual assault by a woman, a former colleague of his at Discovery Network Asia Pacific. Before his stint with the BCCI began in 2016, Johri worked as the executive vice-president and general manager (South Asia) for Discovery. He was named in a Twitter post by author Harnidh Kaur, who shared screenshots of a detailed account by the survivor, narrating the harassment incident on her Twitter handle @PedestrianPoet.
The CoA, appointed by the Supreme Court to run the Board, asked for an explanation from Johri, who submitted it on October 20, denying the allegations.
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The two-member CoA — former Comptroller and Auditor General, Rai, and former Indian women’s cricket team skipper Diana Edulji — along with a senior lawyer of the BCCI's legal team, met on October 20 and 22 to decide on the next step.
The CoA members disagreed on what course to follow with Edulji suggesting Johri should either resign or the BCCI should terminate his contract. Rai disagreed and felt an independent inquiry was required since the allegations were anonymous, and dealt with a period before Johri joined the BCCI.
The CoA statement quoted Rai, who felt it was “necessary to provide natural justice to the CEO by following a due process of law”.
The CoA chairman justified that in similar instances, the person against whom allegations had been made, were permitted to represent their case before an independent committee which would then take a considered view after weighing all evidence.
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“Ms. Edulji was of the view that considering the details and nature of the allegation, there were sufficient grounds for his removal,” read the CoA statement.
“She informed the Chairman she would approach amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium for further guidance, if no action is taken and the CEO is allowed to continue.”
(With inputs from IANS)
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