Seven state associations of the BCCI have written to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) and the office bearers asking them to immediately suspend the board’s chief executive Rahul Johri pending inquiry into anonymous allegations of sexual harassment against him that emerged a fortnight ago. They want the allegations to be probed by an independent panel of three individuals, one each of whom should be nominated by the state associations, the office-bearers, and the CoA.
Hours after these letters were sent, the CoA announced that an independent panel will look into the allegations against Johri. There is no input from the states in the constitution of the panel. The states, the general body of the BCCI, don’t have any powers to act until the new constitution as mandated by the Supreme Court is adopted and general elections are held. The CoA runs the BCCI until such time.
The state associations are Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Haryana, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Goa. Two of them – Gujarat and Tamil Nadu – have also informed the CoA that Johri will not be allowed inside their premises. The TNCA, for example, has banned Johri from the MA Chidambaram Stadium pending inquiry.
Each of the letters – accessed by ESPNcricinfo – has expressed concern at the lack of transparency and due process in the handling of the matter and the absence of communication with the BCCI’s stakeholders. They have raised a concern that the BCCI lawyers – with whom only Johri is empowered to deal – are not in a position to provide the CoA independent legal advice on how to handle allegations against Johri.
“Have the steps taken/procedure followed by the CoA or the office bearers in this matter been taken on the basis of legal advice?” the Haryana Cricket Association has asked. “Who has given the advice? Does Mr. Rahul Johri interact with these lawyers who have advised the CoA on this matter? On account of the various directions issued by the CoA, do these lawyers not essentially depend upon Mr. Rahul Johri’s decisions to some extent? We would like to see a copy of the advice from the lawyers and their details and the number of cases and dates of hearing on behalf of the BCCI that Mr. Johri has interacted with them on.
“What assurance can be given to the members that the legal advice being given by the lawyers in this matter is in the best interest of the organisation rather than in the best interest of Mr. Johri? How many times has Mr. Johri interacted with these lawyers by phone or by email since the allegations saw the light of day?”
The anonymous allegation against Johri first appeared in a tweet on October 12, after which he was given a week to explain himself. There had also been an anonymous email to the BCCI in January 2017, alleging “sex harassment” by Johri at his previous employment.
The letters from the state units contend that the CoA’s response was not consistent with how the CoA has dealt with other matters. Mohammed Shami’s contract was withheld pending enquiry when his wife accused him of domestic violence. In October 2017, the board “dismissed” the Pune curator Pandurang Salgaoncar on an allegation of pitch fixing based on a sting operation, which is not permissible evidence in court, without any investigation. In July 2018, an Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association official was suspended immediately after a sting operation involving bribery for selection. He has subsequently been cleared by a panel.
The state associations have also brought up another internal complaint of alleged harassment – following which the complainant, a BCCI staffer, was transferred within the organisation – that has been reported in the media but neither acknowledged nor explained by the BCCI. These allegations first appeared in letters written by the petitioner who originally took the BCCI to the Supreme Court, Aditya Verma. The letters say the allegations haven’t been discussed with state units either.
The Saurashtra Cricket Association referred specifically to this case. It asked:
“a. Is there any truth to the allegations that an employee had complained of harassment? b. Was an employee made to write a letter of apology? c. Was the employee who complained of harassment made to write a letter stating that all was ok? d. If there is any truth in the set of facts, what was the procedure that was adopted by the office bearers/ CoA/ Management in this matter?”
It is worth noting that the BCCI’s Internal Complaints Committee was set up two months after this alleged incident, in April this year. In the absence of such a committee, such matters are referred to the Local Complaints Committee under the district administration.