Singh lucky to escape ban
Harbhajan Singh would have been handed a longer ban had the spinner's previous offenses been known to the judge.
Last Updated: 30/01/08 12:11pm
Harbhajan Singh's three-match ban for racial abuse was overturned because the judge was not convinced he had called Andrew Symonds a "monkey", but it would have been increased had the spinner's previous offences been known.
Judge John Hansen released a statement explaining his decision to overturn the three-match ban imposed by International Cricket Council match referee Mike Procter for Harbhajan's alleged use of the insult in the second Test between Australia and India in Sydney earlier this month.
The 27-year-old had the decision reversed by Judge Hansen, who said it was unclear whether Harbhajan had used the word "monkey" or the Punjabi insult "teri maki".
In his summation Hansen said: "I have not been persuaded to the necessary level required that the words were said. I am not sure they were.
"I am left with an honest uncertainty as to whether or not they were said given the possibility of misunderstanding through different languages, accents and cultures, and the fact that none of the Australian players appeared to hear any other words said by Mr Singh."
However, Judge Hansen has also revealed he would have imposed a stricter penalty had he been made aware of a number of previous offences Harbhajan was involved in, which were not mentioned at the appeal because of problems with the ICC database and human error.
"I have given earnest consideration to the Code of Conduct to see if it empowers me to reopen the sentencing process," he added.
"Regrettably I have concluded that I cannot do so and the penalty imposed by me must stand.
"At the end of the day Mr Singh can feel himself fortunate that he has reaped the benefit of these database and human errors."
Harbhajan was initially found guilty under section 3.3 of the ICC code of conduct, which relates to "using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion, gender, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin".
Judge Hansen says that even Symonds himself did not think that Harbhajan should have been charged with the more serious offence.
"(Cricket Australia's advocate Brian Ward) confirmed that Mr Symonds took the language to be offensive and seriously insulting but did not consider it fell under the requirements of 3.3."
Symonds also came under criticism for his part in the saga, while Judge Hansen also questioned the evidence of the Australia players, including Michael Clarke, who claimed they did not hear any words used by Symonds.
"It is not without significance that the Australian players maintain other than Mr Symonds that they did not hear any other words spoken, only the ones that are said to be of significance to this hearing," said the Judge.
"This is a little surprising in the context where there was a reasonably prolonged heated exchange.
"Indeed Mr Clarke went so far as to say that he did not hear Mr Symonds say anything.
"Given Mr Symonds' own acceptance that he initiated the exchange and was abusive towards Mr Singh, that is surprising."
Overall, Judge Hansen criticised all the players invovled who did not help themselves, or their sport, with their actions.
"The greater good of the game is more important than the outcome of any particular match, no matter how important that particular game is to the participants," he added.
"I have no doubt that the participants in this game have reflected long and hard since its conclusion.
"Their actions do not reflect well on the game."