M A I N   N E W S

Bhajji cleared, fined

It wasn’t racial abuse, New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen said and charged Harbhajan with a lesser violation of using offensive language

Adelaide/New Delhi, January 29
The charge of racial abuse against Harbhajan Singh was overturned today but he was held guilty of using offensive language against Australia’s Andrew Symonds, ending a bitter controversy which had posed a threat to the remainder of Indian cricket team's tour of Australia.

An ICC-appointed Appeals Commissioner, Justice John Hansen who heard the Indian off-spinner’s appeal against the three-Test ban imposed on him by Match Referee Mike Procter, ruled that on the basis of evidence submitted before him the charge of racial abuse was not proven.

Hansen, a New Zealand High Court Judge, held a day-long hearing at the Adelaide Federal Court during which besides Harbhajan, Sachin Tendulkar and Australian players skipper Ricky Ponting, Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clark were present.

The judge, after overuling the January 6 verdict of South African Procter who had held Harbhajan guilty of racially abusing Symonds by calling him a ‘monkey’, said that the off-spinner should be charged with a lesser violation of using offensive language.

Harbhajan pleaded guilty to the charge and after hearing submissions on the penalty which could have ranged from a ban for two ODIs and one Test to a fine, Hansen imposed a fine of 50 per cent of the match fee on him.

A delighted BCCI, which had raised the stakes by threatening to call back the team from Australia unless the racial charge was withdrawn, welcomed the verdict and announced that the tour will go ahead.

Justice Hansen’s task was made easier by some back channel diplomacy by the BCCI and Cricket Australia (CA) which resulted in a common letter signed by all the Australian and Indian players involved in the fracas that occurred on January 4, the third day of the Sydney Test.

The letter was tendered into evidence as an agreed statement of facts as to what took place during the Test, the ICC spokesman Samiul Hasan said in a statement later.

The Appeals Commissioner took into account the video and audio evidence of the incident although the Indians had been strongly opposed to the introduction of the recording by the stump mike during the appeal. The recording had not figured when Procter held Harbhajan guilty.

Evidence from all witnesses, both Indian and Australian players, to the exchanges between Harbhajan and a number of Australian players, was heard by Hansen, the ICC said.

The witnesses were cross-examined from Mumbai by V R Manohar, BCCI-appointed lawyer, and Brian Ward counsel representing the Australian players. At the conclusion of the oral evidence, legal submissions were heard from the counsel.

“Justice Hansen said he was convinced that, on all the evidence submitted before him, the charge of a level 3.3 offence (racial abuse) was not proven but that Harbhajan should be charged with a level 2.8 offence (using obscene, offensive or seriously insulting language)”, the ICC said.

The Indian off-spinner pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and was fined 50 per cent of his match fee, the statement said.

After the hearing Indian captain Anil Kumble presented himself in front of the media and expressed his gratitude to the Board as well as all those who had stood by his team in this moment of crisis.

“I feel it’s time we move on. There is no point in lingering on the issue,” Kumble said.

CA and the BCCI jointly issued a press release which said that Harbhajan and Symonds had resolved the on-field issue between them in Sydney and now intend to move on. — PTI



Stump Talk
So, what had he said, after all?

Adelaide, January 29
What did Harbhajan Singh tell Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds to provoke the charge of racial abuse against the Indian and create a furore in world cricket?

The recordings from the stump microphone, which were produced before the appeals commissioner Justice John Hansen who cleared Harbhajan of racial abuse but found him guilty of using offensive language, reveal the following exchanges:

Symonds to Harbhajan at the end of an over, “Go and yell at your teammates... You called me monkey again.”

Australian opener Matthew Hayden interjects, “You have got a witness now champ,” obviously addressing Symonds.

Apparently turning to Harbhajan, Hayden is heard saying, “That is the last time.”

Harbhajan: “No, listen, he started it.”

Hayden: “Doesn't matter, mate. It is racial vilification, mate. It is a shit word and you know it.”

These exchanges took place on January 4, the third day of the Sydney Test and the Australians filed a complaint against Harbhajan. — PTI



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |