Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul have been suspended from all forms of cricket pending an inquiry into their controversial comments on a recently aired TV show. The Committee of Administrators (CoA) that is overseeing the functioning of the BCCI has sent fresh show-cause notices to the players, asking them for a response within seven days "as to why they should not be proceeded against for misconduct and indiscipline under Rule 41 of the BCCI Constitution".
The pair will return to India and miss the remainder of the Australia tour and the upcoming limited-overs tour of New Zealand. The selectors are expected to name their replacements in due course.
"You are aware that the enquiry and proceedings against you for misconduct and indiscipline have been initiated under Rule 41 of the BCCI Constitution and the same are presently pending," the show-cause notice, which ESPNcricinfo has accessed, read.
"In terms of Rule 41(6) of the BCCI Constitution, you are hereby suspended with immediate effect from participating in any matter whatsoever in any match or function or event or activity that is authorized, organized, sanctioned, recognized or supported in any way by the BCCI, the ICC or any State Association, until final adjudication of the matter."
The CoA has taken on board the recommendation of the BCCI's legal team that Pandya and Rahul be suspended pending an inquiry. This was the procedure the BCCI followed when its CEO Rahul Johri faced sexual harassment allegations last October.
The recommendation has the support of the CoA member Diana Edulji, a former India women captain, and the BCCI's acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary,
"Based on the legal opinion and till the time the final procedure is laid down to address this issue, will recommend that a communication be sent to the concerned players and the team immediately," Edulji said in response to the legal team's email on Friday morning, which has been accessed by ESPNcricinfo.
"It will be imperative that the players be put under suspension till a further course of action is decided for this misconduct as was done in the case of CEO when he was sent on leave in the sexual harassment matter."
Choudhary agreed with Edulji's view in a separate email.
In reply to the first show-cause notice issued by the BCCI earlier this week, both Pandya and Rahul had apologised for their conduct.
Both Pandya and Rahul have been part of India's practice sessions in Sydney leading up to Saturday's first ODI. On Friday, India captain Virat Kohli said their comments were not acceptable.
This latest controversy, coming immediately in the wake of India's triumph in the Test series in Australia, has once again split the BCCI and the CoA. Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, had initially recommended a two-match suspension for the players, while Anirudh Chaudhry, the BCCI treasurer, had called for stricter sanctions. Acting secretary Choudhary wanted the pair suspended "immediately".
At Edulji's behest, the BCCI's legal team gave its inputs as to the way forward, and whether and how the players could be charged under the board's new constitution, which came into effect in August 2018. The legal team ruled out charging Pandya and Rahul for violating the BCCI's Code of Conduct, which applies strictly to on-field actions.
As per the new BCCI constitution, the power to sanction players for indiscipline or misconduct is to rest with the BCCI's Apex Council. The constitution specifies that the BCCI CEO seek an explanation from the players through an initial show-cause notice and the CEO's report is to be forwarded by the Apex Council to an Ombudsman, who determines what sanctions are binding.
The BCCI, pending fresh elections, does not have either an Apex Council or an Ombudsman. The legal team has suggested that the CoA, as the authorised head of the BCCI currently, could substitute for the Apex Council. The legal team also pointed out that CEO Rahul Johri's initial show-cause notices to Pandya and Rahul had not included specific rules under which the pair could be charged subject to an inquiry.
The legal team suggested that Johri send fresh show-cause notices to both players and that he submit his final report within 15 days. The team also recommended that an ad-hoc Ombudsman, meeting the criteria set by the BCCI constitution, be appointed to adjudicate on the matter within the maximum prescribed period of 6 months from the date the player is charged.
"Considering that the inquiry process against the concerned players has commenced and is pending, it is open for the COA to suspend the concerned players (along with their privileges and benefits) pending enquiry and proceeding into the charges of misconduct until final adjudication," the legal team said in its email to the CoA, the office bearers and the BCCI's professional management.