Rahul Johri, the Board of Control for Cricket in India CEO, has been cleared of sexual harassment charges by a three-member probe panel on Wednesday. The committee, which was formed on October 25, was given 15 days to complete the probe by the CoA. Its report would also be submitted to the Supreme Court. The panel comprising of Justice (Retd) Rakesh Sharma, former Delhi Commission of Women chairperson Barkha Singh and lawyer-activist Veena Gowda, rejected the allegations as "mischievous and fabricated" but has suggested counselling for the BCCI CEO. Johri, who was on forced leave for the past three weeks, can now resume office. However, the decision by the probe panel has divided the Committee of Administrators, with former woman cricketer and current member Diana Edulji seeking his resignation as he had tarnished the reputation of the organisation.
Chairman Vinod Rai approved of Johri joining back while Edulji has demanded his resignation on the basis of some recommendations, including counselling. According to Rai, Edulji made it clear that her stand has been the same from the beginning. "Edulji said that the fact that Gowda has recommended that Johri should undergo gender sensitization counselling/ training is sufficient for her to arrive at the conclusion that he is not fit to be the CEO of BCCI. Accordingly, she expressed the view that the report of the Committee is actually a split 2:1 verdict,” Rai said.
Speaking to PTI after the verdict, Johri said the last six weeks of his life were the "toughest period" of his life and thanked his family for giving him the mental strength to fight the case. "I resumed office today and all my colleagues have been warm and welcoming. It has been a tough one and half months for me and my family. I wish no one has to go through what I have gone through. My wife Seema, the two sons sat through every meeting with my legal team. They were a part of my defence. Had my family and friends not been around, I would have found it mentally difficult to fight this battle. I had faith in god that I will come out clean from this mess," Johri said. The BCCI CEO also rubbished rumours of him tendering his resignation.
In his findings, Justice Sharma, who headed the probe, said the charges were framed with an ulterior motive to harm Johri and throw him out of the BCCI. “The complainants have failed to provide their cases as set up by them. No adverse action need to be taken against Johri on the basis of these mischievous, false, fabricated, unsubstantiated complaints, e-mails, tweets etc on social media,” Sharma said.
On the other hand, Singh and Gowda suggested there was no proof of sexual harassment by Johri but recommended counselling. “In view of his conduct at Birmingham as well as keeping in mind the allegations made by Ms. X and his conduct before this Committee with respect to the photographs submitted, it is essential that Mr. Johri undergo some form of gender sensitivity counselling/training,” Gowda stated.
Barkha Singh noted, “Such kind of motivated and fabricated allegations will diminish the status of women and the job opportunity for them. Such complaints will also have an adverse effect on the fight for equality for women. Setting such precedents will only make it more difficult for achieving equality and equal opportunity for women.”
Timeline of allegations
The first allegation against Johri was an anonymous e-mail accusing him of sexual misconduct, shared on Twitter by a user who later deleted the post. The accuser claimed to be an ex-colleague of Johri at a previous job. There were subsequently two more allegations, one from a Singapore-based media professional and another woman, who worked with Johri in one of his previous organisations. Both women deposed via Skype, along with BCCI's former Anti-Corruption Unit chief Neeraj Kumar, Treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, IPL petitioner Aditya Verma, and former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi.
There were allegations against Johri about inappropriate behaviour with a female employee of the BCCI but the employee in question did not turn up for deposition as was widely speculated.
- With PTI inputs-