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CoA split over Rahul Johri allegations

BCCI CEO Rahul Johri at a press conference Sajjad Hussain/AFP

The BCCI's Committee of Administrators has split down the middle, and in public, over the handling of harassment allegations against the board's chief executive Rahul Johri. The chairman, Vinod Rai, has announced a three-member independent committee to investigate the allegations, but his decision overrides the preference of Diana Edulji, the other CoA member, for Johri to resign or to have his contract terminated.

These details were part of a remarkable press release issued by the BCCI late on Thursday night, which made public the deep divisions between the two CoA members. It announced the panel, to be chaired by Rakesh Sharma, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court, and also including PC Sharma, a former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation - India's premier investigating agency - and Barkha Singh, a former chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, and said it would report its findings and recommendations within 15 days.

Johri had been the subject of an anonymous complaint on Twitter on October 12 and has since gone on leave. He has also denied the allegations made against him, the release said. While looking into the allegations against Johri, the release added, the committee "may take into account and/or probe all allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Johri while he was employed with the BCCI."

However, the release explained in detail the lead-up to the appointment of the committee. It said the CoA met on October 20 and 22 on the issue, when Rai favoured the setting up of an independent committee "in order to follow due process of law and principles of natural justice."

Edulji, the release said, felt that Johri should resign or have his contract terminated since he "has such grave sexual harassment allegations against him" and "it would not be in the interests of BCCI and Indian cricket that he represents BCCI."

Rai, the statement said, did not agree and felt that an independent inquiry was necessary as the tweet was anonymous. It also pertained to a period much before the CEO joined BCCI and it was necessary to provide natural justice to the CEO by following a due process of law. It said he "was very clear" that, in similar instances, the person against whom allegations had been made were permitted to represent their case before an independent committee which would then take a considered view after weighing all evidence.

Edulji then said she felt that such an inquiry was not called for or appropriate and that there was sufficient ground for Johri's removal. She then informed Rai that she would approach senior Supreme Court lawyer Gopal Subramanium "for further guidance if no action is taken and the CEO is allowed to continue".

The statement then said that, after taking legal advice and "soliciting view-points from other relevant quarters", the proposed members of the independent committee were contacted for their consent.

Johri has been on leave since the allegations surfaced, and he was stood down from attending last week's ICC chief executives' committee meeting in Singapore. Following the announcement by the BCCI of the external panel, Johri will be kept away from his job and his current workplace until the external committee conveys its decision to the CoA, and not until October 29 as earlier announced.