While Rai favoured the appointment of the independent committee, Edulji called for Johri to either resign from his position or his contract be terminated. However, Rai overruled Edulji and named a three-member panel consisting of Justice Rakesh Sharma, a former judge in the Allahabad High Court, Ms. Barkha Singh, former Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women and P. C. Sharma, former CBI Director.
The committee must submit the report containing its findings and recommendations within 15 days. In that time, Johri will “continue to remain on leave until the above independent committee submits its report and the same is acted upon,” according to the press release issued by CoA.
However, that was not the end of mounting trouble for Johri as seven state associations - Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka - have written to the CoA calling for action against Johri. In fact, the state associations of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have also barred Johri from entering their premises until his name is cleared by an independent panel, which was constituted after their letters were sent.
The allegations against Johri were made by an unnamed person, who claimed to be his colleague during his stint at the Discovery Channel. The anonymous account was posted on Twitter by an author who later stated that she did not want the charges published nor her name used in the context. Johri had worked in various positions with the Discovery channel from 2001 to 2016 before taking over as the BCCI CEO.
In the press release issues by CoA, the BCCI noted that Johri submitted his explanation on October 20 in which he denied “the incident referred to in the allegations ever took place.” While Rai was of the view that an independent probe was necessary “in order to follow due process of law and principles of natural justice”, Edulji took the view that in the wake of such “grave allegations”, Johri’s position as CEO was untenable and “it would not be in the interests of BCCI and Indian cricket that he represents BCCI.”
Full statement from CoA:
There were reports in the media concerning allegations of sexual harassment made against Mr. Rahul Johri, the CEO of BCC, by an anonymous person. Taking cognizance of the media reports the Committee of Administrators sought an explanation from Mr. Johri with regard to the said allegations. He was granted a week to respond. Mr. Johri submitted his explanation on 20th October 2018 denying that the incident referred to in the allegations ever took place.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court Appointed Committee of Administrators (“COA”) met on 20th and 22nd October 2018 to consider the matter. The Chairman of the COA felt that in order to follow due process of law and principles of natural justice, an independent committee comprising of distinguished persons who are knowledgeable in this field should conduct a fair and transparent inquiry on an arm’s length basis and submit a report containing its findings and recommendation on the way forward. The independent committee could take into account and/or probe all allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Johri while he was employed with the BCCI.
However, the other member of the COA, Ms. Diana Edulji, expressed her view that since the CEO has such grave sexual harassment allegations against him, it would not be in the interests of BCCI and Indian cricket that he represents BCCI. In view of this she suggested that he resigns or his contract be terminated. The Chairman of the COA did not agree and felt that an independent inquiry was necessary as the tweet was anonymous. It also pertained to a period much before the CEO joined BCCI and it was necessary to provide natural justice to the CEO by following a due process of law. The Chairman was very clear 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. Ms. Edulji felt that neither is such an inquiry called for nor is it appropriate. She was of the view that considering the details and nature of the allegation, there were sufficient grounds for his removal. Ms Edulji informed the Chairman she would approach Learned Amicus Curiae Shri Gopal Subramanium for further guidance, if no action is taken and the CEO is allowed to continue.
After taking legal advice as well as soliciting view-points from other relevant quarters, the proposed members of independent committee were contacted for their consent. All three proposed members have now given their consent to be part of the independent committee.
In the above circumstances, in order to enable a transparent and objective enquiry an independent committee comprising of the following distinguished persons is being constituted to inquire into the allegations against Mr. Johri:
1. Justice Rakesh Sharma (former Judge, Allahabad High Court);
2. Smt. Barkha Singh (former Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women); and
3. Shri P. C. Sharma, IPS (Retd.) (former Director, CBI).
Justice Rakesh Sharma (Retd.) shall be the Chairman of the committee. The independent committee may take into account and/or probe all allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Johri while he was employed with the BCCI. All facts and aforesaid alleged transgressions, may be placed before the committee. The committee will be free to seek any record or evidence that it desires. Any person desiring to place any fact before the committee is also free to do so.
The said independent committee is being requested to submit its report containing its findings and recommendations within 15 days. Mr. Johri will continue to remain on leave until the above independent committee submits its report and the same is acted upon.
First Published: October 26, 2018, 8:20 AM IST