Amitabh Choudhary pulls no punches, tears into 1-half of CoA, CEO

Pandya-Rahul controversy handled haphazardly, admits acting secretary

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi in Calcutta
  • Published 7.02.19, 3:55 AM
  • Updated 7.02.19, 3:55 AM
  • 4 mins read
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Acting secretary of the BCCI Amitabh Choudhary Telegraph picture

Amitabh Choudhary, acting secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and India’s nominee on the International Cricket Council’s Board of Directors, spoke to The Telegraph from base Ranchi on Wednesday evening.

Having served as the first president of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association, Amitabh will be remembered for: (A) Thrashing the then home minister of the state, Sudesh Mahto, in the 2006 election for the top post and (B) Giving a world-class cricket facility to the state’s capital.

The interview with Amitabh, where he didn’t mince words, lasted for around 25 minutes.

Excerpts...

Q First question... Why is it that the Supreme Court’s game-changing order of July 18, 2016, has not been implemented? Two-and-a-half years is time enough to implement anything...

A Ever since the Supreme Court’s order of January 2, 2017, I haven’t left any stone unturned in pushing for the implementation of the order you’ve referred to. I have stated my position emphatically both in public and during the Board’s SGMs in June and July of 2017. The first was in Mumbai, the next in New Delhi. I have been firm in my stand.

Q What’s the hindrance?

A The Supreme Court appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to implement the July 18, 2016, order. Please ask its chairman, Vinod Rai, this question.

Q Since you’ve brought up the CoA... It has completed two years in the saddle. Is the Board better off today or has it taken a few steps backwards?

A My answer to your previous question should make my position abundantly clear.

Q Had the CoA not been there, how would you have handled the allegations of sexual harassment against the Board’s CEO, Rahul Johri?

A My method of working in the Board — I became the joint secretary in March 2015 — as well as my track record during the 29 years I spent in the IPS, till I resigned, would leave nobody in any doubt on how I would have dealt with it.

Q A so-called “independent” committee, hand-picked by Rai, returned a 2-1 verdict in Johri’s favour. Many still feel the manner of the inquiry into the grave allegations hadn’t been conducted in a proper and transparent manner. Your take?

A Even before the so-called independent committee started to function, I’d unequivocally written to all concerned that it shouldn’t have been appointed by one man. It should either have been constituted by the Supreme Court or by the general body of the Board. How could the committee be independent if appointed by one man or one-half of the CoA? The most basic tenet of natural justice is that justice must not only be done, but seen to be done. We saw the charade of justice being done... The so-called independent committee’s report wasn’t unanimous and the advice (by Veena Gowda) that the CEO undergo “gender sensitivity counselling/ training” hasn’t even been initiated, let alone completed. The report, by the way, was out as far back as November 21.

Q Rai, who has taken to wearing many hats, regularly preaches transparency. Yet, that hasn’t exactly been a feature of all his actions. Comments?

A I agree 100 per cent with what you’ve said and I’ve formally communicated my views to the Board Members.

Q So belatedly, Rai has actually talked about counselling for Johri. What’s the update? Or, has the chairman of the CoA forgotten what he’d himself mentioned — specifically a 10-day ‘deadline’ on January 25?

A Sorry to disappoint you, but I have no update... I’m in-charge of the National Cricket Academy, but when I don’t know who gave its COO (Tufan Ghosh) permission for an official trip to Australia, of which nothing is known, and he was photographed watching the Australian Open, how do you expect me to have an update on the Board CEO’s gender sensitivity lessons? I’ve asked Johri to inform me as to who gave the COO permission... In contrast, I was to represent India at the Asian Cricket Council’s AGM in Lahore, in November, but for unexplained reasons I wasn’t allowed to travel.

Q The Board has woman employees and, so, Johri has in any case spent over two-and-a-half months in that environment without counselling. Odd, surely...

A It’s a pity that the process has been delayed inspite of the fact you’ve drawn attention to. Really is a pity.

Q Rai’s colleague, Diana Edulji, has been consistent in her stand on Johri. In fact, she wanted either his services terminated or him being compelled to resign immediately after the first allegation surfaced. Yet, right through the CEO episode, Rai cared two hoots for her opinion and sentiments. Your thoughts?

A The CoA has two members, so each is one-half and neither holds the majority. Any decision by one member of the CoA not endorsed by the other cannot be legally valid. What I’ve mentioned has been unambiguously endorsed by a former CJI, Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha, and the secretary of the Justice Lodha Committee, Gopal Sankarnarayanan... It’s in public domain that Madam Edulji neither endorsed the setting up of the so-called independent committee nor the verdict. Nor even the (formal) resumption of office by the CEO.

Q While on Johri, have you got replies to the queries addressed to him?

A Several of them have gone unanswered. Some sent to GM Syed Saba Karim too have been unanswered. I can’t say why.

Q Didn’t the Board handle the Hardik Pandya-K.L. Rahul Koffee with Karan controversy very poorly? An honest answer will be appreciated...

A Yes, it was handled haphazardly. Moreover, the inquiry has still not begun.

Q I was present at the SCG when, during a Media conference, India captain Virat Kohli dissociated himself and the team from the comments made on Johar’s talk show. Indeed, he drew a line, demarcating what is acceptable and what isn’t...

A I salute Virat.

Q How was only Pandya flown out to New Zealand when Rahul too had originally been picked to go there from Australia?

A I’m the designated convenor of selection committee meetings, but I’m not aware of why one went and not both. Chairman Rai and/ or chief selector M.S.K. Prasad would be able to answer this one.

Q Will the Pandya-Rahul bit be addressed only after the IPL and the World Cup?

A If so, then the whole purpose would get defeated. Let chairman Rai answer.

Q Can’t fathom the logic behind giving a bonus to the highly-paid national selectors for merely doing their job... Or, is it assumed by the Board that the quintet may not consistently pick teams capable of winning?

A The three office-bearers of the Board — acting president C.K. Khanna, treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry and I — weren’t in the loop at all. You may kindly ask chairman Rai and CEO Johri.

Q No cash award to the office-bearers for the highly commendable ‘double’ in Australia?

A Ha... Ha... Ha.

Q The family of a former India batsman and a Ranji Trophy-winning captain, Jacob Martin, has had to seek funds for his treatment and only Rs 5 lakh came from the Board for somebody in the CCU for over a month... It’s shocking... Assuming there’s a limit/ norm, shouldn’t the issue be revisited?

A Should be, yes.

Q Lastly... Looking ahead...

A We’ll place our points before the Hon’ble Supreme Court at the next hearing (possibly on February 12).