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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

BCCI ombudsman’s appointment opens door for revisit of allegations against CEO Rahul Johri

One of the first matters that will need the ombudsman’s attention is the process followed over the conduct of the probe against CEO Johri — debated by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji herself.

cricket Updated: Feb 22, 2019 08:35 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
New Delhi
File image of Rahul Johri.
File image of Rahul Johri.(AFP/Getty Images)

Looks like the allegations of sexual harassment against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) CEO Rahul Johri could be revisited as the Supreme Court bench of Justice SA Bobde and Abhay Manohar Sapre appointed Justice (retired) DK Jain as the ombudsman of the Indian cricket board. With the bench hearing the BCCI matter on Thursday, the new Amicus Curiae PS Narasimha made it clear that there were serious issues that needed to be resolved and thus the urgency in requesting for the appointment.

While one of the first matters that will need the ombudsman’s attention is the process followed over the conduct of the probe against CEO Johri — debated by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji herself — another crucial matter will be getting down to resolving the issue wherein India all-rounder Hardik Pandya and opener KL Rahul made inappropriate comments in a chat show.

Sources in the know of developments, present at the Supreme Court during the hearing on Thursday, told Hindustan Times that with the Amicus insisting on the appointment of an ombudsman, the bench did ask Narasimha about the urgency. To this, the Amicus Curiae spoke of how the presence of an ombudsman would help in resolving issues that need redressal.

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“The Amicus said that the urgent matter is to appoint the ombudsman. So, initially, the other side objected to this as they felt that the BCCI must appoint the ombudsman. But then, the judge asked him what is the urgency and the Amicus said that there are many issues including a big complain against a top BCCI official. To this the judge asked how big the official was and he said that it was the CEO of the BCCI. I thought he would speak of the players first, but he started with this and then moved to the players,” the source revealed.

Johri had undergone gender sensitisation counselling at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Tuesday. The recommendation was made by lawyer Veena Gowda — a member on BCCI’s three-member independent committee to look into allegations of sexual harassment against the CEO — to the CoA in her part of the report from the three-member independent committee.

But the fact that one of the female employees of the BCCI supposedly walked off in the middle of the briefing sessions conducted by both Gowda and Rainmaker — a company which specialises in ‘POSH’ (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment at workplace) training for corporates — doesn’t augur well for the image of the board. And a senior BCCI official said that the appointment of the ombudsman came as a breath of fresh air and would finally put the matter to rest.

“We are pleased that the ombudsman has been appointed and that means that the case regarding CEO Johri which remains unresolved can now be given a closure as per the rules. The earlier independent committee wasn’t constituted as per the constitution of the BCCI, but with DK Jain coming in, it will be given a proper closure with the ombudsman looking into the details of the whole process that was followed,” the official told Hindustan Times.

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In the report of the independent enquiry by the committee — comprising of Justice (Retd) Rakesh Sharma, Barkha Singh and Gowda — formed by CoA chief Vinod Rai, while Rakesh Sharma and Barkha Singh gave Johri a clean chit, Gowda had said that ‘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’.

Interestingly, a senior BCCI official had questioned the virtuousness of the independent committee itself as one of the members — Barkha Singh — was already a chairperson of Delhi and District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) internal complaints committee when appointed in the panel to look into allegations against Johri, as per DDCA records.

With the Amicus speaking about the need of an ombudsman to address serious issues of the board, the unresolved issue of Johri will definitely be at the top of the agenda for Justice Jain as the reputation of the board is of utmost importance for all stakeholders and a closure according to the constitution and its regulations is a must.

First Published: Feb 22, 2019 08:28 IST

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