BCCI president says introducing new evidence is unfair
As a dramatic Test series ended, the drama shifted off the field to preparations for the hearing of Harbhajan Singh's appeal against his ban for making racist remarks. A day before Justice John Hansen began the hearing a controversy was brewing over his decision to admit new evidence, including transcripts from stump cameras, even as the Indian team gathered in Adelaide in a show of unity instead of proceeding to Melbourne for the next leg of the series.
Harbhajan's counsel, VR Manohar, said he would not oppose the use of additional evidence like the transcript of the stump microphone but would object to any embellished improvised material, which he said was "fishy" evidence.
However, the BCCI has said that introducing new evidence at this stage was not a normal court practice. "Our lawyer has said that whatever comes to the fore in the lower court is discussed or heard by the appellate commissioner, bringing new evidence is against the rule," BCCI president Sharad Pawar told reporters in New Delhi.
Members of the Indian team were wondering why the additional evidence had come so late, three weeks after the conclusion of the Sydney Test at which the incident occurred. In a show of solidarity the team decided to stay back in Adelaide. The additional members of the one-day squad will also join them from Melbourne.
Justice Hansen said on Monday the appeal would be a re-hearing, with evidence being given by all of the witnesses who gave evidence to Mike Procter in the original hearing; he also spoke of "additional evidence, such as the transcript available from the stump microphone," being made available.
"I have nothing against the stump microphone evidence being used as long as it is not tampered with," Manohar told Cricinfo from Mumbai. "What I will object to is a scenario where a player who said he didn't hear Harbhajan use the monkey word during the first hearing turns around and says he did hear that word. That would be termed as "fishy". If the players decide to add to what they have stated in the tribunal, and if that contradicts their initial stance, that would be objectionable."
"If there have been any suspicious changes to the material recorded during Procter investigation, I would term it as fishy or embellished improvised material. That said, I am not against using stump microphone transcripts or some thing new like that."
Manohar, whose son Shashank is the Indian board's president-elect, will participate in the hearing via a video link from Mumbai. He has not travelled to Australia, citing his age - he is 74 - and his confidence that the present "innocuous" evidence was enough to prove Harbhajan's innocence.
Cricinfo, meanwhile, has learnt that the evidence provided by the stump transcripts is inconclusive - what Harbhajan says is indecipherable - and is expected to neither jeopardise nor help his case.
The original hearing was played out under the shadow of India's threat to pull out of the tour unless the racism charge was withdrawn. There was some speculation that the threat still held, and Lalit Modi, the board's vice-president, said as much on Monday. "If the racism charge against Harbhajan is not taken back, then the Indian board has taken a decision that the team will come back to India," Modi was quoted by PTI.