29 January 2008

When cricket experience just ain't good enough

Quite unfortunately, the match refree has almost always been asked to adjudicate on questions which a lawyer or a judge will be more comfortable dealing with.

Most evolved criminal justice systems rely on that "golden thread" - the presumption of innocence. In England, Australia, India, USA and New Zealand for instance, the judiciary will try its utmost to insist that an accusation is merely that; that an accused is considered innocent until proven otherwise, beyond "reasonable doubt". Any question involving misdemeanour on the field, whether it involves racial connotations or not, has to be dealt with using a procedure that mirrors the criminal trial systems of constitutional democracies. As insignificant as sporting disputes may seem when compared to cases of murder and rape, there is an accused who stands to lose something if a charge is proved. In Harbhajan's case it was three Test matches and his reputation.

This means that questions of admissibility, reliability of evidence(s) and burden of proof will automatically arise. Of course, these need not always be complicated questions that require the particular expertise of a trained lawyer, but the point is that if there is one case in five that requires such expertise, that is reason enough.

For anyone with half a brain, it was clear when the shit hit the roof that there was no way anyone could prove the racism charge on Harbhajan "beyond reasonable doubt". There simply was not enough proof to deprive Harbhajan of three Test matches and call him a racist.

But we must not be too harsh on Procter. All evolved judicial systems allow for judges to make mistakes, and do so without fear. Any criminal trial can be appealed against and if a superior court annuls the trial, the lower judge in question does not automatically become a wrongdoer. But all evolved judicial systems will try to minimize damage caused by incompetence. We must give Procter the benefit of doubt. We must try to believe that he was not malicious - merely incompetent.

It is time the ICC clearly defines the role of the Match Refree to those instances where an ex-cricketers particular set of skills will be useful. Malcom Speed is a lawyer. He should know better.


Anonymous said...

John... the problem is there has been many high profile cases where the benefit of doubt was given to Procter. His "beyond reasonable doubt" line clearly stretched his luck.

John said...

So Scorpi, there is a different set of standards to judge him by. Ask how he has applied the rules to the facts, and if he has persistently made mistakes, he must be adjudged a bad match refree, nothing more. Calling him a racist is way over the top.

Anonymous said...

john.. please read the harbhajan singh appeal order..
apart from providing a few laughs.. paras 25 to 30 should help you make your legal views in this article more nuanced..

Anonymous said...

i m sorry.. its paras 25 to 41

straight point said...


excellent point while the emotions are running high everywhere !!

i believe that while facing racism all his life he did not wanted to appear soft on racism and went overboard...

i think he become dumbstruck while facing the same thing he hated (presumably) all his life and delivered injustice...