(AFP) - India spinner Harbhajan Singh has been banned for three Tests after being found guilty of racial abuse for allegedly calling black Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds 'a monkey', the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Sunday.The 27-year-old Harbhajan was found guilty under the ICC's Code of Conduct following the clash with Symonds on the third day of the acrimonious second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground which Australia won by 122 runs.
The charge was laid by match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor after Australia captain Ricky Ponting had accused Harbhajan of making a 'monkey' comment at Symonds, the only black player in the home team.
Following a four-hour hearing held at the SCG, match referee Mike Procter delivered his judgment.
He found the case against Harbhajan proved and informed the off-spinner, who has collected 255 wickets from 62 Tests, that he was imposing a ban of three Tests.
The contentious incident occurred when Harbhajan was batting with Sachin Tendulkar during India's first innings on Saturday.
It was alleged that Harbhajan had an argument with Symonds, during which time he used the word 'monkey', said an ICC statement.
"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Harbhajan Singh directed that word at Andrew Symonds and also that he meant it to offend on the basis of Symonds' race or ethnic origin," said Procter.
The offence falls under 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct which refers to players or team officials "using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethic origin".
In accordance to the Code of Conduct the maximum penalty that could have been imposed for this offence was a ban of four Tests or eight One-Day Internationals.
Australia defeated India by 122 runs in a sensational finish to the second Test on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the four-match series but the aftermath of the clash was dominated by accusations of bad sportsmanship and poor umpiring.
Harbhajan will miss the final two matches of the current series with the third Test beginning in Perth on January 16.
Harbhajan, who made 63 in the first innings, had denied he abused Symonds.
"I did not say anything racist. I do not know what is going on," he said on Saturday.
"I haven't done anything, we were just talking. It wasn't even sledging, it was just normal talk out on the cricket field. I was concentrating on my batting."
Symonds was subjected to monkey gestures from sections of the crowd during the last game of a seven-match one-day series in Mumbai in October after earlier receiving similar abuse during the fourth game at Vadodara.
Paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who is not touring Australia, was involved in on-field verbal clashes with Symonds in the India series.
Racism in cricket has been a problem in the past.
Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist accused Pakistan counterpart Rashid Latif of racial abuse during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, but Latif was cleared because of a lack of evidence.
Australian Darren Lehmann was the first player to be banned for racial abuse when he was suspended for five one-dayers over a racial remark in earshot of the Sri Lankan dressing room during the 2002/03 season.