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CoA Crossfire Over Probe Leaves Hardik & Rahul in the Lurch

CricketNext has learnt that while Chairman Vinod Rai wants to appoint an ad-hoc ombudsman, as suggested by the BCCI’s legal advisors, former India women’s captain Diana Edulji is insisting that only a permanent appointee, as mandated by the new constitution, can conduct such a probe.

Devadyuti Das |Cricketnext |January 14, 2019, 6:49 PM IST
CoA Crossfire Over Probe Leaves Hardik & Rahul in the Lurch

New Delhi: The inquiry to investigate comments made by suspended Indian cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on a TV talk show is likely to be delayed as the two-member Committee of Administrators (CoA), in charge of running the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), have completely divergent positions on how to approach the issue.

CricketNext has learnt that while Chairman Vinod Rai wants to appoint an ad-hoc ombudsman, as suggested by the BCCI’s legal advisors, former India women’s captain Diana Edulji is insisting that only a permanent appointee, as mandated by the new constitution, can conduct such a probe.

“The Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for 17th Jan, let the court be informed about this situation and let an Ombudsman be appointed by the court instead of taking a wrong step of appointing the ad hoc ombudsman, which is not as per the new constitution,” Edulji has written in a mail to chairman Rai, who is in favour of appointment of an ‘ad-hoc’ Ombudsman to look into the matter.

The Supreme Court will be taking up Cricket Association of Bihar’s petition about the working of the CoA and BCCI on Thursday (January 17).

However, Rai, who is in favour of a quick probe, is keen to get the process going in the absence of a permanent appointee. The BCCI’s legal advisors, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, had approved such a move in their reply to Edulji’s query on January 10: “The CoA can appoint an ad hoc ombudsman with a defined specific mandate of adjudicating on the present matter and he should be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.”

Rai had initially wanted the probe to be conducted by BCCI CEO Rahul Johri in his bid to finish the whole investigation procedure before the second ODI on Tuesday (January 15). Edulji feared for a 'cover up' and wanted the probe to be conducted by the CoA as well as BCCI officials such as president CK Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary and treasurer Anirudh Choudhary instead of Johri.

“Please note that since you do not want to follow the suggestion of legal to have an ‘ad hoc ombudsman’, your suggestion runs the risk of your committee being ‘judge, jury and executioner’. Please go ahead and take it forward. I will keep away and leave it to you,” Rai’s reply, a copy of which is available with CricketNext, to Edulji on Monday (January 14) read.

"BCCI is not in the business of ending young careers. Please be assured that the desire to conduct the inquiry is not a desire to 'cover up'. The interest of cricket in India has to be kept in mind. The CEO must fulfil his duty as per Rule 41(C) and conduct the inquiry after receiving the explanation of the players. He must ensure that the norms of natural justice are fulfilled," Rai wrote in another mail, as reported by PTI.

Rai's recommendation that Johri conduct the interviews with Pandya and Rahul was immediately rebutted by Edulji as "bad optics."

“In view of the grave sexual allegations levied on the CEO, it wouldn’t be justified if he conducts the enquiry. It’s bad optics and the CoA will be criticised for it,” Edulji had replied Rai in an earlier mail.

The BCCI have complicated the matters for themselves because the CoA had instructed them to appoint an Ombudsman, as stated in Rule 40 of new constitution, in their status Report submitted to the Supreme Court in October 2018.

“The newly registered constitution of BCCI requires the appointment of an Ombudsman at the Annual General Meeting for the purpose of providing an independent dispute resolution mechanism. It is necessary that the first Ombudsman be appointed at the earliest so that the provisions relating to independent dispute resolution mechanism under the newly registered constitution can be implemented immediately,” the 10th CoA report, submitted on October 28, 2018, reads.

“Once appointed, Ombudsman will deal with grievances raised by members of BCCI and the IPL teams besides addressing acts of ‘indiscipline, misconduct, breach, etc’,” the report added.

However, no action on this front has been forthcoming from the BCCI as neither an Annual General Meeting (AGM) nor a Special General Meeting (SGM) has been held since then. CricketNext has learned that Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) have sent a letter to BCCI president CK Khanna to call for an urgent SGM to appoint an Ombudsman.

"The Ombudsman should have been in place for the very beginning. The CoA and BCCI have delayed the appointment because according to new constitution only Ombudsman can resolve the disputes. The SGM can be called 10 days after this notice has been issued and then it will take some more time to appoint an Ombudsman. I know that the players will suffer in the meantime but the BCCI have to follow the rules," former SCA president and BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told CricketNext.

In the meantime, Pandya and Rahul, who are now headed back home, continue to be on the tenterhooks about their future with little clarity about when the process to determine sanctions against them will begin, let alone be completed.

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