Kolkata: David Pemsel, CEO-designate of the globally-envied English Premier League (EPL), won’t be taking up the position after “inappropriate” messages via WhatsApp from him to a woman ex-colleague found their way to the media.
The uproar left Pemsel, CEO of The Guardian Media Group at the time he got the EPL job, with no choice but to step aside.
Cut to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which continues to employ a CEO, Rahul Johri, who had to undergo “some form of gender sensitivity counselling/training” after allegations of sexual harassment against him were probed by an “Independent Inquiry Committee”.
Many are of the opinion that the once-admired and feared BCCI should actually be setting standards, not just on the field.
“Some form of gender sensitivity counselling/training” was, in fact, recommended by Veena Gowda, one of the three members of the Committee chaired by Justice (Retd) Rakesh Sharma.
The inquiry was conducted 13 months ago, when the BCCI was micro-managed by Supreme Court-appointed administrators Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji.
With Justice Sharma and Barkha Singh giving Johri a clean chit, the Committee returned a 2-1 verdict in the CEO’s favour. Gowda differed.
Rai, who chaired the Committee of Administrators (CoA), conveniently overlooked even the following from Gowda: “The conduct of Mr Rahul Johri in Birmingham, as CEO of an institution such as (the) BCCI, is unprofessional and inappropriate, which will adversely affect its reputation and the same has to be looked at by the concerned authorities.”
That was with regard to a complaint filed by a woman from overseas.
Edulji, a former captain of the India women’s team, wanted Johri sacked after the inquiry, but Rai’s view prevailed. The CEO, therefore, stayed rooted to his chair.
Report under lock & key
The CoA is now part of history as the BCCI is back in the hands of its member associations. The CoA held sway for 33 months.
Specifically, the BCCI’s reins today rest with president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah, son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Ganguly’s power comes from his position, personality and the respect gained during his years as the India captain. In Jay Shah’s case, it’s largely about who his father is.
As expected, Ganguly has taken a stand on the corruption surrounding the T20 leagues run by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. On a different level, is he comfortable working with Johri, who had to undergo “some form of gender sensitivity counselling/training?”
Equally, is Jay Shah at ease when dealing with the CEO?
Only a portion of the Committee’s report was put out in the public domain by the CoA. That too, after being edited in one place, apparently by Rai.
Has the Committee’s report been handed over to Ganguly and the other office-bearers by the CoA, which today has nothing to do with the BCCI?
The answer, one learns, is no.
ThePrint understands that the Committee’s report is in a drawer/locker at the Cricket Centre in Mumbai, where the BCCI is headquartered. The key is with Edulji.
Two women, one in North America and the other in South East Asia, deposed on Skype. Word is that they have not yet been provided copies of the Committee’s report.
Why not? The women surely have a right to the Committee’s report. Just what is being hidden from the complainants?
One of the women sent two emails, seeking a copy of the Committee’s report, but CoA chairman Rai turned down her legitimate request both times.
Does the written submission and deposition on Skype by Neeraj Kumar, a former commissioner of police (Delhi) and adviser to the BCCI’s Anti-Corruption & Security Unit, feature in the Committee’s report?
What about the “letter of authority” sent to Kumar by the woman on whose Twitter handle the most graphic allegation of sexual harassment against Johri surfaced? Is that also part of the Committee’s report?
ThePrint has accessed Kumar’s emailed submission to the Committee, his statement (based on the deposition via Skype) and the “letter of authority” from the woman whose Twitter handle was used.
Excerpts from Kumar’s submission
“Sometime in February 2018, a lady employee of the BCCI informed me, while I was in Delhi, that Mr Rahul Johri, CEO of the BCCI, had been harassing her regularly for over a year.
“During the (2017) Champions Trophy, when both the CEO and the lady were in England, Johri crossed all limits by asking her what she could do for him. When she asked what he meant by that, he said: ‘Girls do a lot of things for their bosses for money and fame’.
“The lady understood what he was hinting at and walked out of his presence saying: ‘If you mean I should XXXX XX XXX with you, I am sorry’.
“Thereafter, the CEO’s attitude towards her became indifferent and rude.
“On their return to India, as narrated by the lady, the CEO began to sideline her and took away most of the responsibilities she had thus far been charged with.
“She put up with all indignities heaped on her by the CEO till, one day, he said unparliamentary things in the presence of other employees. That was the tipping point and she left office.
“The lady sent in her resignation to members of the COA and, maybe, others as well.
“Mr Vinod Rai was in Singapore and he called her up to say that she should wait till he returns. In the interim, she didn’t attend office.
“The lady called me up sometime during this period. When I advised her to share the details of her experience with Mr Rai, she said that he would take no action against the CEO.
“I told her that he is a retired IAS officer and would not look the other way if an act of sexual harassment is brought to his notice, that too against the CEO. I feel it was on my advice, much against her own wishes, that she decided to report the matter to Mr Rai.
“On 27th February (2018), at 8.30 am, Mr Rai and Ms Diana Edulji met the lady, who was called with her husband. She narrated, as reported to me subsequently by her, in great detail her experiences at the hands of Mr Johri. But, as expected by her, no action was taken against the CEO.
“I happened to meet Mr Rai either on the 2nd or 3rd of March (2018) at the Delhi Gymkhana Club at 9.00 am in connection with an MEA plan to encourage cricket amongst the poorer countries of the Commonwealth. A Joint Secretary of the MEA dealing with the subject was also there.
“After the meeting was over, I brought up the subject of Mr Johri’s misconduct.
“Mr Rai listened very patiently and said that Mr Johri ‘had not come up to our expectations’. When I said exemplary action was called for, he told me that there was nothing in writing from the lady (employee).
“I communicated this to the lady and she informed, later in the day, that she had sent her complaint by email to the CoA.
“On 6th March (2018), when I was in Mumbai, the lady informed me that she had withdrawn her complaint. I told her it was okay with me since it was her battle and not mine.
“Presently, both the lady and the CEO are still working in the BCCI. I have heard, unconfirmed, that a prominent politician called Mr Johri in the presence of the lady, where she gave him a dressing down. It is rumoured that Mr Johri was in tears and submitted a written apology to her.
“As the members of the Committee are aware, in the interim, an anonymous Tweet was posted on the Twitter handle of a lady. I met the said lady in Mumbai on 4th November (2018). She is the daughter of a fellow IPS officer. Here, my locus standi is that of father’s friend.
“She disclosed that, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, several victims of sexual harassment had used her Twitter handle to post their stories, one of them being the Tweet alleging sexual harassment by Mr Johri. It is in the wake of this Tweet that the present inquiry was ordered.
“The lady stated that Mr Johri intimidated her with the (threat of the) registration of an FIR and a defamation case if she did not withdraw her Tweet.
“Since she has to travel abroad in connection with a scholarship, she decided to withdraw it. The lady handed over a copy of the legal notice sent by Mr Johri, which is attached.
“The anonymous complainant (Email address mentioned) has reaffirmed her allegations and stands by them.”
It’s unbelievable that Rai and Edulji hushed up the case involving Johri and the woman employee, waking up only when a tweet left them with no scope to again engage in a brushing-it-under-the-carpet act.
That Edulji, being a woman, was part of a cover-up is most surprising. Later, of course, she gunned for Johri. But didn’t get the timing right.
Now, for the most sensational parts of Kumar’s deposition on Skype… The questions, one gathers, were asked by Justice Sharma.
“Q: Do you confirm what you have said in your email?
“Q: After the matter is closed on (a) written apology by Mr Johri, do you want to pursue the matter further, on behalf of (lady employee) complainant?
“A: I do not have instructions to this effect from the lady in question and it is unfortunate if she has not approached the Committee herself.
“Q: Anything else you want to state before the Committee?
“A: I am sure you know who the first (lady employee) complainant is. She told me that Mr Johri would stand behind her and hold her shoulder and tap her back. Occasionally, he would pass unwanted remarks.”
Why did Johri apologise if he’d done no wrong? And, if he’d accepted behaving inappropriately, why was he not given the boot by the CoA? Did somebody manipulate from outside the BCCI?
Moreover, the manner in which the Committee conducted the inquiry was baffling.
Anybody willing to depose had to first prove his/her credentials and establish his/her locus standi as well. Some may have found that intimidating.
The Delhi-based Kumar, then busy writing another book, was sent an email at 1.45 pm on 10th November (2018) saying he could appear before the Committee “till 6.00 pm” that day or between “11.00 am-6.00 pm” the next day!
Naturally, Kumar chose to depose via Skype.
More important, why was the woman employee of the BCCI not invited by the Justice Sharma-chaired Committee to depose? Why was it left to her to take the initiative? Fearing victimisation and worse, she didn’t volunteer.
BCCI must address the issue
Ganguly and Jay Shah have much on their plate, but should also address the Johri issue. It’s about standards.
Indeed, many in the BCCI are furious with the CEO and, at the recent AGM, questions were raised about fat salaries and hefty bonuses. Hard queries were, for example, posed by Jaydev Shah, president of the Saurashtra Cricket Association.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)