Ombudsman Justice (retd.) Ajit Prakash Shah has directed the BCCI to file, by January 30th, its response on a conflict of interest allegation against Harbhajan Singh.
Harbhajan, who plays for Punjab, reportedly owns an apparel company called ‘Bhajji Sports’ that provides jerseys and kits to at least six State teams (Punjab, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Railways, Services and Jammu & Kashmir).
Mumbai-based activist Neeraj Gunde, who has taken up the matter with the ombudsman, has in a letter dated January 14th pointed out to the rules laid out by the BCCI on conflict of interest pertaining to cricketers. This newspaper is in possession of the complaint.
When contacted, Justice Shah told The Hindu, “Yes, my office has received the complaint. We will follow the due process.” His office has written to the BCCI president Shashank Manohar and general manager (game development) Ratnakar Shetty.
In his letter, Gunde cites Rules C and D, which state that “current cricketers shall not have any conflict arising with the BCCI sponsors including the apparel sponsor” and “current cricketers shall not accept any controlling position in any commercial organisation having a contract with the BCCI or its State unit(s).”
“It is very clear from the above context that Mr. Harbhajan Singh is conflicted in C & D of the code. I request you to initiate appropriate action,” Gunde concludes.
Vikram Sidhu, who identified himself as the director of ‘Bhajji Sports’, said “Actually, Bhajji paaji and I are friends for more than 15 years. I am the owner of this company. Bhajji paaji has nothing to do with it. He is just my brand ambassador.”
When asked about the terms of the company’s contract with Harbhajan, Sidhu added “actually, I don’t pay him anything. He is just doing me a favour. He is just helping me out with this business. It’s a small-time company, you see.”