India news November 14, 2018

BCCI panel wraps up hearings after Johri, two complainants depose

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BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri, who is facing sexual harassment allegations, has testified before the independent inquiry committee investigating the issue, as have two women who have levelled those allegations against him. Johri's deposition is understood to have been spread over ten hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He was the last person to be heard by the three-member committee and is understood to have presented a lot of "records" in his defence to counter the accusations.

The two women complainants, neither of whom is part of the BCCI, deposed over Skype in the past few days. Both women - who live overseas - had alleged misconduct by Johri in their emails to the three-member committee comprising Rakesh Sharma (retired judge of Allahabad High Court), Barkha Singh (former chairperson of the Delhi Women's Commission) and Veena Gowda (human rights activist).

It is understood that one of the women is a friend of former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi, who testified in person on Monday. The woman had sought Hattangadi's help to reach out to the Committee of Administrators (CoA), which was appointed as the supervisory authority of BCCI by the Supreme Court last year.

Although no detail of the misconduct has come out, after hearing her out, Hattangadi had thought her complaint was "authentic" and put her in touch with CoA member Diana Edulji.

The second complainant is understood to have worked with Johri at a media organisation before he joined the BCCI. That makes it three women, all three outside of BCCI, who have accused Johri of sexual misconduct.

The first allegation had surfaced on October 12 when an unknown person narrated an incident of sexual misconduct against her by Johri several years ago. The details of the incident were revealed through a post on Twitter by verified account of a person, who subsequently said that she did not want to talk about the issue anymore.

The inquiry committee, which had already heard Vinod Rai, Edulji, Anirudh Chaudhry (BCCI treasurer), Neeraj Kumar (former head of BCCI's anti-corruption unit) Hattangadi and whistleblower Aditya Verma, has not, however, heard or contacted the woman BCCI employee, who was on the verge of quitting earlier this year over alleged harassment by Johri. The CoA, which was made aware of the issue late February, had moved the woman employee out of Johri's team to the another department with a new reporting head.

In his desposition, Chaudhry is understood to have told the inquiry committee that the CoA had handled this "internal case badly." The committee then asked Chaudhry why the BCCI had not formed a sexual harassment cell in the first place until the CoA formed it eventually this April when a four-member internal complaints committee was formed in line with Sexual Harassment against Women at Workplace Act 2013 (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal).

The inquiry committee will now retire to evaluate all material - both the depositions as well as all the written communications - before issuing its own order. The CoA had given a fortnight to the inquiry committee from the day it took charge (October 30) to reach a conclusion. However, if it needs further time, the CoA has told the inquiry committee it will be flexible.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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