The handling of the disciplinary issue involving Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, suspended for comments made on a TV talk show, has created another flashpoint in the differences between the two members of the Committee of Administrators. While CoA chairman Vinod Rai wants Rahul Johri, the BCCI chief executive officer, to conduct the initial inquiry, Diana Edulji has said it should be done by a committee comprising the CoA and the BCCI's office-bearers.
Edulji has been firmly against Johri conducting the inquiry considering the "grave sexual allegations" against him last year. A three-member ad-hoc inquiry committee did not find him guilty of those charges and he was cleared to resume work.
In yet another series of email exchanges, Rai assured Edulji that his insistence upon conducting a quick inquiry should not be seen as a "cover up" but he did not want the players' careers to be affected badly. "Please be assured that the desire to conduct the inquiry is not from a desire to 'cover up'," Rai said in an e-mail on Monday to Edulji. "The interest of cricket in India has to be borne in mind. The off the ground act of the players was deplorable. It was crass as I said immediately after reading the comments. However, BCCI is not in the business of ending young careers for 'off the ground' activities.
"It is our responsibility to reprimand them, take corrective action, sensitise them of their misdemeanour and then get them back on to the ground once they have suffered the consequences. We have shamed them by recalling them from an ongoing tour. We have suspended them from further games. We need to correct them and not bring their career to a cul de sac by indefinitely delaying a decision. These misdemeanours require swift action, with a corrective approach."
Pandya and Rahul were suspended on the eve of the first ODI of the Australia series for their controversial comments on popular entertainment chat show Koffee with Karan and given a week to send in explanations of their actions. The show was recorded last year and broadcast on January 6. Both players have written to the CoA and the BCCI CEO, "profusely" apologising for their conduct and saying they will make amends. Johri is likely to send another notice to Pandya and Rahul, asking for a more detailed explanation of the incident.
The focus then shifted to who would adjudicate the inquiry. Last week the board's legal team suggested that both players should be suspended pending an inquiry, which should be conducted by Johri followed by an ad-hoc Ombudsman - the BCCI has not filled in the Ombudsman's position since late 2016 - issuing the final ruling as per the BCCI constitution.
While Edulji opposed the appointment of an ad-hoc Ombudsman, saying the BCCI constitution does not support such a role, she had suggested to Rai that the inquiry should be done by CoA and the three office bearers or the CoA and the acting BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhury.
On Monday, Rai reiterated that although he would not stand in the way of Edulji sitting on such a formation, he would definitely not be part of it because he "perceived that as an act" against the board's rules. "You want to form an inquiry committee with the office bearers to inquire into the misdemeanour of the players, you may feel free to do so, but keep me out of it."
The Supreme Court will be hearing the BCCI case on January 17 and Rai said if it didn't take a call on the appointment of an Ombudsman, the CoA will then ask the amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium to do it.
Rai and Edulji have differed on other aspects of the issue ever since the controversy broke. Rai was strongly in favour of dropping both players from the first two ODIs of the three-match series in Australia followed by an inquiry but also said that keeping the players out of the squad indefinitely would prove to "debilitate" the strength of the team. Edulji disagreed. "We should be in no hurry to conduct the inquiry as then it will look like a cover up job being done," Edulji said in an e-mail to Rai on January 12.
Rai feared prolonging the argument could hurt the interest of the Indian team and the "damage may be irreparable." Edulji shot back, saying if Rai was trying to "pre-judge the outcome" of the inquiry by suggesting it be wrapped by the third ODI, which would be played on January 18. On Sunday, Edulji told Rai the court should be informed on the issue on Thursday and asked to appoint the new Ombudsman.