A day after Vinod Rai, who heads the two-member Committee of Administrators (CoA), decided to set up an independent committee to probe allegations of sexual harassment against BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, his colleague Diana Edulji stuck to her call to sack him. Edulji, a former India skipper, said that the allegations against Johri have not just tarnished Indian cricket’s reputation but his presence in the BCCI will make all women — herself, players and office employees — uncomfortable.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Edulji said: “As a woman in the CoA, it was my moral duty to ask for the resignation because my women’s team is there, my women support staff is there, and there are women staff working in BCCI. He (Johri) will roam around freely in the office. What message are we sending to these girls? How can I sit in the meeting with him? I can’t look in his eyes. You can’t say now he can’t sit in the meeting, then how will CoA work? After all, our main goal is to implement the Lodha recommendations.”
She also said that the BCCI’s interests were paramount for her. “Nobody is larger than the organisation. BCCI interest is first. BCCI image should not be affected; nobody should take away that.”
Edulji, former India captain, spoke of how she has jostled with the issue for four days, from the day the CoA asked Johri to submit a response to the allegations to the day he did. She said public opinion on the issue is strong and the BCCI, as an institution, needs to address it.
“I went to a doctor the other day and he asked me ‘kya, tumhara CEO girls ko harass kar raha hai aur tum kya kar rahe ho?’ (your CEO is harassing girls and what are you doing about it?) The other day, I went to the CCI (Cricket Club of India). There were parents and women members asking me about it. I can’t face all this. My heart felt something wrong going on and I just stood by it. Tomorrow, the man (Johri) will sit beside women cricketers and Virat Kohli in a press conference – what sort of image that sends across? People will say we just didn’t do anything,” she said.
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In a statement Thursday, the CoA made their divisions public on whether Johri should continue as CEO. Writer and poet Harnidh Kaur had first named Johri in a Twitter post, attaching screenshots of an anonymous victim’s account of sexual harassment by Johri when he was with Discovery.
The CoA took cognizance of the allegations and asked Johri to submit a response within a week. Johri denied any wrongdoing and it is learnt that he has submitted names of 11 women employees from Discovery who can attest to his conduct and character. While Edulji wanted him sacked, Rai decided to set up an independent committee after consultations with the legal team. Seven state associations have also written to BCCI seeking action against Johri.
“Ms. Diana Edulji expressed her view that since the CEO has such grave sexual harassment allegations against him, it would not be in the interests of BCCI and Indian cricket that he represents BCCI. In view of this, she suggested that he resign or his contract be terminated. The Chairman of the CoA 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.”
The independent committee comprises Justice Rakesh Sharma, a former Judge of the Allahabad High Court, Barkha Singh, former chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, and P C Sharma, former director of the CBI. They are to submit a report in 15 days.