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Oct 09, 2010 at 09:43pm IST

Australian police in racist email scandal

Melbourne: The Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday summoned the Australian High Commissioner over the racist e-mail scandal involving top Victorian police officers joking about an Indian train passenger's electrocution.

In a shocking incident, top Australian police officers were caught in a racist e-mail scandal joking about the electrocution of an Indian train passenger and suggesting that it could be "a way to fix the Indian student problem" in Melbourne.

The police officers of the Australian state of Victoria circulated sickening video footage showing the death of the man, who was travelling on the roof of a crowded train in India, The Herald Sun reported.

When the train stopped at a station the man stood up and touched an overhead power cable. Onlookers screamed as he was electrocuted, showed the clip contained in one of the offending e-mails.

The e-mail containing the shocking video began circulating in the Victoria Police computer system and racist comments were added, suggesting "this might be a way to fix the Indian student problem".

The paper said it has discovered some of the force's highest-ranked officers have been implicated in the scandal, which also involves pornographic material.

Three superintendents were nabbed during an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate e-mails through the police computer system and several inspectors have also been caught, the report said.

E-mails probed by the Ethical Standards Department's (ESD's) Operation Barrot contain pornographic, homophobic, racist and violent material.

Reacting to the scandal, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland described the e-mails as "disturbing, offensive and gross".

The scandal involving "sick" Victorian police officers came at a time when the force's command was trying to ease racial tension after a number of assault cases involving Indian students living in Melbourne.

Victorian Premier John Brumby criticised the actions of the police who circulated the racist material.

"This is completely offensive and contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community - tolerance and respect," he said.

A police spokesman said the e-mails were offensive. "These are matters which demanded we took action. Some of the content was extremely offensive and we can't tolerate that within the ranks of Victoria Police," he said.

Premier John Brumby has criticised the actions of the police who circulated the racist material.

"This is completely offensive and contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community - tolerance and respect," he said.

Federation of Indian Students spokesman Gautam Gupta said he was appalled at the incident.

"It is outrageous that police officers would joke about the death of anyone. I am really shocked. This is humour in very, very bad taste," he said.

The incident seems to have surfaced at a time of simmering racial tensions faced by Indians living in Australia.

Commenting on the issue, Australian Envoy, Peter Verghese said, “The e-mail is unfortunate and completely unacceptable, one police officer concerned has already left the police post while facing investigations. The other faces serious disciplinary proceedings.”

Victorian police and Victoria's premiere have already condemned the incident. The conduct of only two police officers does not mean the entire Victorian police is biased against the Indian community. It is unfortunate that this incident has taken away the many steps that we undertook to make the Indian community feel safer after last year's attacks, he added.

Meanwhile, India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has reacted on the racist e-mail in Australia, saying “It’s shocking and a matter of serious concern.”

Ministry of External Affairs sources said, Australian High Commissioner was told the implication of involvement of police officers is shocking and of serious concern and India understands that a probe is already underway.

India also wants action against the concerned officers and expects the authorities to ensure safety of people of Indian origin in Australia.

(With inputs from agencies)

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