A three-member probe panel set up by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) cleared BCCI CEO Rahul Johri of sexual harassment charges on Wednesday.
While Justice (retd) Rakesh Sharma, who headed the panel, and former Delhi Commission of Women chairperson Barkha Singh dismissed the allegations against Johri as “fabricated”, the third member, lawyer-activist Veena Gowda, advised him to undergo “gender-sensitivity counselling/ training”.
The CoA was divided: Vinod Rai concluded that Johri could resume office, while Diana Edulji insisted that he should be sacked. Since Rai, as the CoA chairman, prevailed, Johri is set to resume office after a gap of three weeks.
The BCCI statement quoted only a part of the report, but the CoA is expected to share the panel’s findings and recommendations with the Supreme Court in its status report. “The allegations of sexual harassment in the office or elsewhere are false, baseless and have been fabricated and manufactured with an ulterior motive to harm Mr Rahul Johri,” Justice Sharma said in the report. “The complainants have failed to provide their cases as set up by them and we (me and Smt. Barkha Singh) are of the opinion that Mr Rahul Johri has not abused his powers,” he said.
Stating that he found the allegations to be “manufactured with an ulterior motive to harm Mr Rahul Johri and throw himout of BCCI as indicated in some communications, and reactions expressed in the e-mails, statements in the press”, he said, “there has to be a balancing of the rights just as the complainant women have a right, the respondent-CEO also has a right and in these circumstances and facts of the case, we are not ready to hold him guilty of the charges. He appears to be innocent.”
Gowda pointed to Johri’s behaviour with a colleague during the Champions Trophy. “The conduct of Mr Rahul Johri at Birmingham, as a CEO of an institution such as BCCI, is unprofessional and inappropriate which would adversely affect its reputation and the same has to be looked at by the concerned authorities. 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,” wrote Gowda.
In its statement, the CoA said: “Since there is no consensus between the two members of the Committee of Administrators regarding what action should be taken against Mr Rahul Johri, the chairman stated that the natural consequence would be that Mr Johri continues as the CEO of BCCI and is entitled to resume office. Ms Edulji disagreed with this. However, the chairman reiterated that Mr Rahul Johri should continue as the CEO of BCCI and resume his duties, as a natural consequence.”
Reacting to the development, Johri told PTI, “I am relieved and always had faith in God that I will come clear.” The first allegation against Johri was an anonymous e-mail accusing him of sexual misconduct, shared by an author on her Twitter handle — the post was later deleted. The accuser claimed to be a former colleague of Johri at a previous job. There were two more allegations, one from a Singapore-based media professional and another woman who worked with Johri at one of his previous organisations. Both women deposed via Skype.