Committee of Arbitrators blasts BCCI treasurer’s conduct

The power struggle in the BCCI has intensified with the committee of administrators (CoA) joining forces with the chief executive officer Rahul Johri and chief financial officer Santosh Rangnekar, leaving treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry in some trouble.

In November, Rangnekar told the Supreme Court that Chaudhry had issued veiled threats against him on three separate occasions. Chaudhry responded with shock and surprise at the allegation and promptly denied any wrongdoing. He also submitted an affidavit to that effect, having been being asked by the court to do so, on December 13.

The court was scheduled to hear the matter on Monday, but deferred the case to February 23.

Meanwhile, the CoA submitted its sixth status report to the court on January 25. On the same day, Johri too filed an affidavit and the contents of those documents could lead to Chaudhry facing some tough questions.

In a damning appraisal of his work, the CoA wrote that Chaudhry’s conduct had become “seriously objectionable” and “has no reason to disbelieve the allegations levelled” against him by Rangnekar. The report further stated that Chaudhry “appears determined to use his position to undermine” the authority and functioning of the CoA, which took charge on January 30 last year. The committee felt it was forced to report on Chaudhry to the court once he began “inundating” Johri and Rangnekar with e-mails intended to put pressure on them.

Johri told the court that Chaudhry had accused him of taking “erroneous” decisions during the first three weeks of January last year. It was the period when Johri became acting head of the BCCI after the court sacked the board president and secretary on January 2. A day later, it disqualified all existing office bearers pending their approval of the Lodha Committee reforms.

Last November, Johri said in his affidavit, Chaudhry had sent him an e-mail saying he had violated the BCCI’s rules, and his own contract, by trimming the national selection panels (senior and junior) from five to three members. Johri explained that he took the decision based on “directions” from the Lodha Committee but Chaudhry argued that a court order on January 2 and 3 last year had limited the committee’s powers and as such their instructions were not “binding”.

Johri insisted he had taken the call after consulting both the BCCI’s senior management and their lawyer. He further added that the Lodha committee had told him that the court impasse should not hinder “cricketing activity”. But Chaudhry would not accept that the CEO had acted in “good faith”.

Chaudhry highlighted another “wrongdoing” on the part of both Johri and Rangnekar when they accessed funds from a BCCI bank account at a Union Bank of India in Mumbai in January 2017.

But both men were within their right to do so. The court had sacked the board’s office bearers and there was a danger of cricket coming to a standstill if various vendors, suppliers, hotels, and state associations were not paid. Under such an emergency, as per a resolution of the BCCI’s financial committee in 2016, the Union Bank account could be operated by two out of three officials – the CEO (Johri), CFO (Rangnekar) and the board’s manager of game development and administration.

It was at this juncture the CoA decided to step in. According to Johri, they told Chaudhry that his conduct “is designed to intimidate the professional management of the BCCI and created obstacles in its functioning.” Furthermore, the CoA, in the status report, told the court that Johri had only acted in the “best interests” of the BCCI and should have been “commended rather than vilified”.

The BCCI’s three existing office bearers have been asking the court to take another look at the Lodha reforms, one of which pertains to the demarcation of duties between administrators and management. With the support of many state associations, the office bearers prefer control of the board in their own hands.

The CoA is clearly against that. In an email to Chaudhry on November 22, they said that “vested interests” within the BCCI were trying to create a “parallel” administration, one that wants to stick with the “flawed” existing constitution while opposing the reform process undertaken by the committee. “It is obvious which administration within the BCCI you form part of and support.

“The thrust of your grievances stems from your preference” for the existing BCCI constitution, which was “flawed” and was being replaced by the reforms recommended by the Lodha Committee, approved by the court and being exercised by the professional management under the panel’s supervision.

“It is for this reason that you have been inundating the CEO and CFO with long and verbose emails designed to intimidate them rather than pride any constructive suggestions. Some of the issues raised by you do not even pertain to your duties as Treasurer of the BCCI and it appears that you are insistent on involving yourself with mattes that are outside the scope your duties.”

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