The Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) has asked the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri to “submit his explanation within a week” a day after he was named in an anonymous #MeToo post. An allegation made by a woman claiming to be a former colleague of Johri was posted on Twitter on Friday night.
ESPNcricinfo has also seen communication that shows that the BCCI had been alerted as long ago as January 2017 to a harassment case allegedly involving Johri in his previous employment. It is not clear if the allegation made on Friday, to which Johri has to answer, is the same case the BCCI was alerted to in January 2017. Johri has not made any public comment; calls and messages to him remained unanswered.
“There are certain media reports today,” said a CoA release initially circulated selectively through Whatsapp messages, “including in the social media, pertaining to Mr. Rahul Johri, CEO BCCI. The reports disclose allegations of sexual harassment made against Mr. Johri, by an unnamed person through a twitter handle. The allegations also relates to his previous employment with a large media house. The allegations have appeared as a part of the ‘me too’ movement. Though, the said allegations do not pertain to his employment with the BCCI, the Committee of Administrators of the BCCI has deemed it appropriate to seek an explanation from Mr Johri in relation to the allegations. He has been asked to submit his explanation within a week. Future course of action will be considered on receipt of his explanation.”
The woman behind the Twitter allegation claims to have been a colleague of Johri before he had moved to working with a “niche satellite channel”. It was posted by a verified Twitter account of a person who has published several such anonymous allegations on behalf of others. This is the first high-profile person involved in Indian cricket administration to be named in the #MeToo exposes.
An anonymous email, addressed to the BCCI office-bearers Amitabh Choudhary and Anirudh Chaudhry, its state units and the Lodha Committee secretary Gopal Sankaranarayanan in January 2017, wrote of a “sex harassment case in Discovery channel” involving Johri. ESPNcricinfo is in possession of the email, which was sent nine months after Johri was appointed the BCCI CEO. The CoA only came into being a few days after this email.
The contents of that email were brought to Johri’s attention, who responded by calling the accusation – as well as the allegations of a subsequent financial settlement – a “complete lie” and a “malicious attempt to tarnish my reputation”. He also produced an appreciation email from his previous employers and the briefing pack from the recruitment agency Korn Ferry, which he said didn’t have any reference to any sexual misconduct. This email exchange took place on January 25, 2017 and the CoA was constituted on January 30. There was no further investigation into the complaint.
This is not the first time the CoA has been called upon to deal with a case of harassment. In September this year, Aditya Verma, the whistleblower whose original litigation resulted in the Lodha reforms, wrote to the CoA asking for action in a case of harassment within the BCCI, which first came to the fore in February 2018. In his letter, Verma reminded Vinod Rai, the CoA head, that the complaint “of sexual harassment of a very senior official” should have been referred to the District Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act because the BCCI did not have an internal complaint committee at the time. The BCCI’s own complaint committee was formed in April 2018, under Section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act 2013. The BCCI or the CoA has not spoken publicly about this case.
The CoA has not referred the current matter to its complaints committee yet, which could be because it doesn’t pertain to Johri’s employment with the BCCI. Rai has not responded to ESPNcricinfo’s attempts to contact him. Nor does the statement say who will represent the BCCI at the ICC chief executives’ meeting in Singapore on October 17 and 18. Ordinarily Johri would have been the attendee.
The BCCI sent out an email later with the same statement though it dropped the words “sexual harassment” from it, and did not specify the nature of the allegations.
Johri has been the BCCI CEO since June 2016, and before that he was Discovery Networks Asia Pacific’s executive vice-president and general manager for South Asia. Korn Ferry, a Mumbai-based head-hunting firm, had been appointed by the BCCI to find the board a CEO, and Johri was chosen by the firm after a roughly four-month-long selection process.