Gowda blames BCCI, CoA for improper handling of Johri case

Veena Gowda’s observation on the issue is brutal and unsparing.

BCCI CEO Rahul Johri at the Indian cricket board headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday.   -  PTI

 

For almost a year or so there have been whispers of alleged misconduct by the BCCI CEO, Rahul Johri, with a BCCI employee, a lady at that. BCCI officials privy to information have confided that this person, against whom lewd remarks have been directed at, went to the extent of quitting the job; but the CoA, quite embarrassed by the highly sensitive circumstance, persuaded the concerned employee to stay put.

Unseemly episode

Perhaps, in the wake of this unseemly episode, the BCCI constituted a four-member Internal Complaints Committee for prevention of sexual harassment against women at workplace.

Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, sexual harassment includes “making sexually coloured remarks” or “any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.”

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One among the four members of this committee was Veena Gowda, a women’s rights lawyer who, for over 12 years, has been dealing with domestic violence, sexual harassment at the workplace, sexual abuse, and property rights cases.

It’s not known when Gowda came to know about the particular BCCI lady employee’s emotionally hard-pressed time, but, as a member of the three-member independent committee, she has come down heavily on the way the BCCI and CoA dealt with the issue.

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Gowda’s observation on the issue, censored from the findings and recommendations made public by the CoA on Wednesday, is brutal and unsparing.

She has said: “It has been noticed that the CoA and the BCCI have not handled the issues raised [by the internal complainant] as per law and in view of the fact that the allegations were against the CEO himself.

“Effort to close the concerns/disputes between the parties themselves without going through the due process of law has been made. The CoA and the BCCI should be held accountable for the manner in which this issue has been handled.”

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Why was Gowda’s observation, crucial to the investigation of the alleged charges against the BCCI CEO, not highlighted in the findings by the CoA chief, Vinod Rai?

Long-time BCCI officials say, censoring Gowda’s observations, smacks of favouritism.

The terms of reference to the independent committee allowed any individual, including the BCCI officials and employees and the CoA, to depose. Some papers, including the supposed letter of apology given to the lady employee, were given to the committee. It was also the responsibility of the committee to invite her to depose, just as it did to the three office-bearers and a few others including former Mumbai Ranji Trophy player Shishir Hattangadi and former BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit advisor Neeraj Kumar.

CoA chief Vinod Rai, along with member Diana Edulji, at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday.   -  PTI

 

Suggestion turned down

A BCCI official said: “Despite suggestions that the internal complainant (BCCI employee) should be called to depose before the independent enquiry committee, it was turned down. Maybe the internal complainant was ‘scared’ to come forward on her own, and would have testified before the enquiry committee had she been called.”

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Gowda came into the committee because P.C. Sharma, IPS (former Director, CBI), recused on account of conflict of interest.

And she was the one to say “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.”