There's so many strands to follow at the moment. Let's start with the central issue.
Harbhajan Singh has been found guilty by ICC match referee Mike Procter of a Level 3 breach of the Code of Conduct that relates to comments vilifying players on the basis of, among other options, race, ethnicity or colour. The full ICC press release concerning the hearing can be read here.
Harbhajan is alleged to have used the word "monkey" to Andrew Symonds - though I notice that there seems to be no finding explicitly stating that he actually called Symonds a "monkey".
There appear to have been five witnesses giving evidence at Sunday night's hearing in addition to the two protagonists. Sachin Tendulkar, who was Bhajju's batting partner at the time, and four Australian fielders: Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist and Michael Clarke. Neither umpire witnessed the alleged remark.
Of course, whenever an exchange happens on the field of play there are always likely to be more witnesses among the fielding side than the batting side. Rightly or wrongly, this weights the evidence in favour of the fielding team.
I'm not going to comment on Harbhajan's guilt or innocence. I wasn't there, and though I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, I wasn't at the hearing either. (Where is Court TV when you need them?) One thing I do know is that there is, or at least should be, no linkage between the conduct of one individual and the honour or reputation of an entire nation.
Whether Harbhajan Singh is guilty of making a solitary racially-charged remark or not, whether deliberate or not, does not categorise him as a racist. Likewise, it is nonsense to suggest that racism is totally absent from India today. But neither of these points should really be relevant to the issues at hand.
What is relevant is what legal avenues are open to Harbhajan Singh and the BCCI from this point forward. It's all set out fairly clearly at item H11 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Officials. It's on page 18 of this PDF, but allow me to quote it here:
"11. For matches other than ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, the following appeals system applies:
a) A Player or Team Official charged or the ICC Chief Executive shall be permitted to appeal against an adjudicator’s finding and/or penalty in respect of a Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 Offence.
b) The relevant Player or Team Official or the ICC Chief Executive seeking to appeal against a decision (the appellant) is to lodge with ICC Legal Counsel written notice of appeal setting out the grounds of the appeal within 24 hours of notification to the Player or Team Official of the adjudicator’s decision.
c) Within 48 hours of receiving the appellant’s notice of appeal, the ICC Legal Counsel shall appoint a member of the ICC Code of Conduct Commission (the Appeals Commissioner) from a country other than those playing in the match in which the incident giving rise to the appeal occurred to hear and determine the appeal.
d) The adjudicator shall provide a written statement to the ICC Legal Counsel setting out all relevant circumstances within 48 hours of a notice of appeal being lodged. A copy of this statement shall be forwarded to the appellant within 24 hours of its receipt by ICC Legal Counsel.
e) The Appeals Commissioner shall hear and determine the appeal within 7 days of his appointment by the ICC Legal Counsel.
f) The process for conducting the hearing shall be left to the discretion of the Appeals Commissioner. Oral representations (either in person or by telephone conference as determined in the discretion of the Appeals Commissioner) should be permitted unless there are good reasons for relying on written submissions only. Where it is available, he shall view video tape of the incident which is the subject matter of the appeal.
g) The Appeals Commissioner shall provide a written decision to ICC which shall be forwarded to the appellant, the adjudicator and the ICC Chief Executive.
h) The Appeals Commissioner shall have the power to increase, decrease, amend or otherwise substitute his own decision from that of the adjudicator if he thinks appropriate so to do.
i) If in the opinion of the Appeals Commissioner, the appeal lodged by the appellant was Spurious or Frivolous, the Appeals Commissioner shall be entitled to determine that the costs of the appeal shall be paid by the appellant.
j) Pending resolution of an appeal, a Player shall be permitted to play in a match that is scheduled to commence prior to the announcement of the Appeals Commissioner’s decision.
k) The decision of the Appeals Commissioner shall be final and binding."
The Indian camp had 24 hours to lodge an appeal against Procter's decision. It appears that they have done that, though at this hour I haven't seen confirmation from the ICC.
From that point the ICC has 48 hours to appoint an Appeals Commissioner (which takes us up to Thursday morning). From there, the Appeals Commissioner has seven days to conduct his enquiry. That takes us up to January 17, the day after the Perth Test will commence.
It is important to note subsection (j). Harbhajan's three-match suspension is set aside whilst the appeal is being heard. That means that unless the Appeals Commissioner dismisses the appeal more than a day inside his deadline, Harbhajan Singh is free to be selected to play in the Third Test.
There's a fair and transparent process in place to give Harbhajan Singh his rights to an appeal. Let's get on with it. Meantime, let's get on with the cricket. And whatever decision the Appeals Commissioner comes up with, let's abide by it, move forward, and remember that the matter relates to one individual cricketer, not the "honour" of a nation.
(My next chapter of this ever-growing tome will deal with Brad Hogg.)