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Rahul Johri Probe: Panel's Hesitance to Consider Earlier Harassment Allegations Raises Eyebrows

Meha Bhardwaj |November 15, 2018, 1:09 PM IST
Rahul Johri Probe: Panel's Hesitance to Consider Earlier Harassment Allegations Raises Eyebrows

Even as the three-member probe panel appointed by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) to probe allegations of sexual harassment against BCCI CEO Rahul Johri continued to hear depositions, concerns are being expressed about their reluctance to probe a previous complaint of harassment against Johri made by an employee of the board.

The incident dates back to earlier this year, when this employee of the board had complained about Johri’s conduct to the head of the CoA, Vinod Rai and his colleague Diana Edulji. The complainant, it is understood, resigned from her role but was “persuaded” by Rai to withdraw her resignation. Johri is believed to have given a “written apology” at the time and the employee continues to serve in the board.

CricketNext has learnt from a source that members of the panel are of the view that as this incident had been “dealt with” it should not be considered while probing the sexual harassment allegations that have subsequently been made against Johri. However, that argument has cut no ice with some others close to the matter who argue that it indicates a “pattern of conduct” on Johri’s part and believe it is relevant to the charges he is facing. It can be confirmed that this complainant hasn’t come forward to depose before the panel and neither has she been summoned to recount her story.

Even among those who have been deposed, there are atleast three individuals who were specifically called in to give details of the incident involving the BCCI employee and Johri and so, this source said, it was curious that the probe panel has not called the victim herself to give her side of the story.

Among those who have deposed in front of the panel are Rai, Edulji, BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, IPL petitioner Aditya Verma, former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi and Neeraj Kumar, the former chief of BCCI's anti-corruption unit.

Meanwhile, it isn’t clear yet if the panel comprising Allahabad High Court judge (Retd.) Rakesh Sharma, former Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) chairperson Barkha Singh and lawyer-activist Veena Gowda will file its report on Thursday or seek an extension to complete the process.

It is also learnt that the panel heard depositions from two ladies who submitted complaints against Johri. One relates to a time in a previous organisation, several years before Johri took up his current role at BCCI and was also posted on Twitter recently. The second is a more recent one, during Johri’s tenure with BCCI, which was first brought to light by Hattangadi who was contacted by the alleged victim. Johri himself has also deposed and is believed to have been grilled for seven hours.

While there has been speculation that pressure has been brought upon the panel by influential figures to ensure Johri is granted a clean chit, those who deposed in front of the panel appeared satisfied at how the process was conducted.

“The panel had a positive way of approaching the deposition,” Hattangadi told CricketNext. “The asked pointed questions seeking complete clarity from my end. The panel made sure they got all the details from me and didn’t digress from the core issues.”

“I was satisfied with my deposition and I am sure there will be justice in this case,” added Verma. “There are two women in the panel and I believe they will understand the trauma that these victims have gone through. I have given all the evidence and Retired Judge Rakesh Sharma will take the right decision based on the evidence.”

The allegations Johri is being probed for first surfaced when an incident involving an unnamed person, who claimed to be Johri's colleague during his stint at the Discovery Channel, was shared by a Twitter user. In a press release to announce the formation of the three-member independent panel, the CoA reported that Johri had denied “the incident referred to in the allegations ever took place.”

Johri has worked in various positions with the Discovery channel from 2001 to 2016 before taking over as the BCCI CEO.

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