Australian trio face prosecution for bashing Indian

Melbourne: In a landmark case, three men have been prosecuted under racial vilification laws for the first time in Australia`s Victoria state for physically assaulting and verbally abusing an Indian student in Melbourne`s outer south-east last year.

According to media reports, lawyer of the three accused ? Jason Ritchie (24), Adam Baxter (25) and David Potter (24) – has disclosed that the trio will contest charges stemming from an alleged attack on a bus from Frankston to Rye in which young Rajan Kumar Katkam was abused and bashed.

Katkam was bashed, verbally abused and humiliated during the 45-minute race-fuelled pack attack on the crowded bus on February 6 last year.

In a court hearing yesterday, Crown prosecutor Diana Karamicov told the Frankston Magistrates Court that the three men sat around the victim at the back of the bus before Ritchie said "Black man, black man", pushed Kumar from behind, through the back of his seat, and slapped him.

Baxter then allegedly said "(You) need to leave this country or you will be bashed."

Karamicov said the three accused also told Kumar, "You want to be equal, that`s why you`re getting bashed."

Baxter and Ritchie face five charges ? Baxter faces two counts of serious racial vilification and Ritchie one charge each of incite racial hatred and incite racial contempt, as well two charges each of unlawful assault.

Potter faces seven charges, including one each of incite racial hatred and incite racial contempt ? and four assault and causing injury charges.

Lauding the state judiciary role in Rajan`s case, National Council of Indian Australians (NCIA) founder and president of Federation of Indian Association of Victoria Vasan Srinivasan said: "such a judgement has happened for the first time in history of Victoria. It will help in sending a strong message to Indian community back home that such acts would not be tolerated."

Reacting on the development of the case, Gautam Gupta, spokesperson of Federation of Indian Student Association (FISA), said: "The case will be surely act as an deterrant so its a significant case but whether its a landmark case will be only proved if the trio are convicted and sentenced."

"Its going to help Indian students here specially those who are working odd hours and are in low end jobs."

Katkam, who arrived here in 2008 to pursue a course in Graphics, had filed a case with the office of Victims of Crime following the incident which had forced him to defer his studies.

According to Katkam, he was travelling on the bus when three youths who were apparently drunk started harassing him.

Katkam said one of the members first started hitting him while the others threw chicken pieces at him. He claimed the trio told him that black people want to be equal and that`s why they are getting bashed.

The case was adjourned until July four this year.