The three member probe panel tasked by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) into probing allegations of sexual harassment against Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) CEO Rahul Johri, cleared him of all charges on November 21. The panel was set up on October 25 and was given 15 days to complete the probe.
The independent panel, comprising retired Justice Rakesh Sharma, former Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Barkha Singh and lawyer-activist Veena Gowda, called the allegations levelled against Johri as "baseless and fabricated" in their report.
"The allegations of sexual harassment in the office or elsewhere are false, baseless and have been fabricated and manufactured with an ulterior motive to harm Rahul Johri and throw him out of BCCI," Justice Sharma stated.
"No adverse action need to be taken against Johri, CEO, BCCI, on the basis of these mischievous, false, fabricated, unsubstantiated complaints, e-mails, tweets, etc. on social media," he added.
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In her report, Barkha Singh, former head of Women Commission, too toed a similar line. “In my opinion, such kind of motivated and fabricated allegations will diminish the status of women and the job opportunity for them. Such complaints will also have an adverse effect on the fight for equality for women,” she wrote.
In sharp contrast though, Gowda’s report said, "Each of the allegations before the committee has been dealt with above and as a conclusion I am reiterating some of the consequential observations made therein for recommended action:
“A) The Conduct of Rahul Johri at Birmingham as a CEO of an institution such as BCCI is unprofessional and inappropriate which would adversely affect its reputation and the same has to be looked at by the concerned authorities.
“B) In view of his conduct at Birmingham as well as keeping in mind the allegations made by Ms. X and his conduct before this Committee with respect to the photographs submitted, it is essential that Mr. Johri undergo some form of gender sensitivity counselling/ training," she wrote.”
Having been passed with a ‘clean chit’ by the independent committee, Johri is free to resume office — from which he was on a three-week forced leave. Despite the panel report though, the split between members of the CoA on the matter remains strong.
CoA Chairman Vinod Rai decided Johri should be reinstated, a proposal Diana Edulji, the other member of the Committee of Administrators, strongly objected to.
"Since there is no consensus between the two members of the Committee of Administrators regarding what action should be taken against Rahul Johri, the Chairman (Vinod Rai) stated that the natural consequence would be that Johri continues as the CEO of BCCI and is entitled resume office," stated a release from the CoA.
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"(Diana) Edulji disagreed with this. However, the Chairman reiterated that Rahul Johri should continue as the CEO of BCCI and resume his duties, as a natural consequence," it added.
Additionally, Edulji insisted on the report not being published on Wednesday, asking for a few days to study it, Vinod Rai took the call of opening the report in front of the panel members as well as BCCI’s legal team.
One of the persons deposed by the three member panel, Shishir Hattangadi, has severely criticised the decision as well as the method of investigation claiming, that only Gowda had asked relevant questions and stuck to the brief of the investigation.
In a statement to the Indian Express, Hattangadi further termed the differences in the findings of the three-member probe panel as “unnerving” and disappointing. “If one person is saying you need help, you need counselling and you behaved not unbecoming of a CEO and two people have given a contrary opinion, it talks about the dichotomy of a probe and that is for me questioning wisdom of people.”
(With inputs from IANS)