CoA member Diana Edulji wanted BCCI CEO Rahul Johri to resign or be removed, but chief Vinod Rai insisted on setting up a three-member inquiry panel.
Two’s company, three’s a crowd. This is a phrase most of us are familiar with, in one context or another. But the honourable Supreme Court of India could not have anticipated that the same idiom works in reverse as well.
In June 2017, Ramachandra Guha resigned from the court-appointed Committee of Administrators — a grandiose term for a set of four — leaving Vinod Rai with Diana Edulji and Vikram Limaye for company. When Limaye stepped down shortly after, the committee of four was reduced to a ‘crowd’ of two. And if latest developments are anything to go by, more changes should be expected.
After all, when the CoA was set up, its primary task was to build consensus within the state associations of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to ensure that the reforms mandated by the Lodha Committee were implemented in spirit and letter. All the CoA has managed, in the interim, is to unite the state associations of the BCCI in opposition to the CoA, alienate key stakeholders of the game, and ride roughshod over some of the traditions and terms of engagement that kept a diverse flock together.
When faced with the single most important issue before them, the very serious allegations of sexual harassment against BCCI’s Chief Executive Officer Rahul Johri — who has been acting on behalf of the CoA — there was a serious division between Rai and Edulji.
More than a difference of opinion
Rai chose to maintain a studied silence since the allegations against Johri became public, before, during and after the #MeToo movement on social media that has resulted in the resignation or dismissal of several prominent persons from their posts, including a minister. Rai’s committee issued a public statement Thursday night after receiving multiple letters of complaint from state associations of the BCCI.
“The chairman of the COA felt that in order to follow due process of law and principles of natural justice, an independent committee comprising of distinguished persons who are knowledgeable in this field should conduct a fair and transparent inquiry on an arm’s length basis and submit a report containing its findings and recommendation on the way forward,” it said.
“The independent committee could take into account and/or probe all allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Johri while he was employed with the BCCI.”
Critically, this part of the statement restricts the ambit of the independent committee to allegations against Johri “while he was employed with the BCCI,” which is a clear attempt to distance the committee from the social media posts that came to light accusing Johri of similar actions when he was a high-profile executive employed by the Discovery Channel prior to his time in the BCCI.
But, more importantly, Rai found himself in a minority of one in a committee of two, perhaps for the first time since he has taken over the running of Indian cricket.
Edulji, a distinguished former women’s cricketer, approached the issue differently. Her view was 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 resigns or his contract be terminated”.
Rai disagreed, arguing that others in similar situations were allowed to continue in harness even as investigations were under way. This is patently false, as it was Rai’s committee which suspended Mohammed Shami’s central contract when allegations of a similar nature — later found to be baseless — were levelled against him.
Rai drops the ball
ThePrint further understands that one of the reasons Edulji took such a hardline stance was because Johri’s written response to the allegations was not sent to the Committee of Administrators but only to Rai.
The chairman then shared the response with the amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’), Gopal Subramanium, to close the loop. Attempts to contact Johri, Rai and Edulji to confirm that this was the sequence of events remained unanswered.
What has become patently clear, however, is that the CoA realises this is the worst possible environment to try and brazen it out, on an issue that has caught the public imagination like never before.
That a seasoned administrator such as Rai would have even considered this an option, given how little action he took and how late, only reinforces the belief that has been held in many quarters in Indian cricket since he arrived on the scene: He talks a good game, is notionally the right man for the job, but practically, has done nothing to improve how the game is run.
When Indian cricket made its clarion call to Rai, it seems like he has faced his own 2G moment. He has dropped the ball, if not the call.