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Australian state premier criticises Indian media, officials

Victoria premier John Brumby on Wednesday criticised the Indian media and officials and said there had to be "some balance to the reporting" after it emerged that an Indian man who claimed to have been set alight by assailants in this Australian city had in fact accidentally burnt himself.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2010 14:40 IST

Victoria premier John Brumby on Wednesday criticised the Indian media and officials and said there had to be "some balance to the reporting" after it emerged that an Indian man who claimed to have been set alight by assailants in this Australian city had in fact accidentally burnt himself.

Jaspreet Singh, 29, of Essendon had on January 8 claimed he was set alight by unknown assailants near his home. But police allege he accidentally burnt himself while torching his car for an insurance claim.

Jaspreet Singh was charged with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining financial advantage.

Brumby told reporters here: "I think I'll make a couple of comments and in a sense they go, as much as anything, to the way the Indian media and the, to a lesser extent some representatives in the Indian government, portray these events."

He also referred to the death of Ranjodh Singh whose body was found on the side of a road in New South Wales in December last year.

"I think the point needs to be made that the people who have been charged with that murder are both Indians," Australian news agency AAP quoted Brumby as saying.

"And we've had this (Jaspreet Singh) case, which attracted a lot of attention in India, and police have charged an individual with setting fire to himself.

"So I hope that there is some balance to the debate, some balance to the reporting in India and certainly to date that balance hasn't been there."

Jaspreet Singh told police he was doused with petrol and set alight as he parked his car near his home on January 8. He was taken to hospital with burns to 15 per cent of his body, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Detective Senior Constable Danielle O'Keefe told a court on Tuesday that Jaspreet Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura.

"Inquiries have led us to believe that Mr Singh is in some financial difficulty and that he intended to sell his car but instead stood to gain $11,000 from an insurance claim out of this particular incident," she was quoted as saying.

Police obtained security footage showing Jaspreet Singh buying a 15-litre opaque plastic container and 15.96 litres of petrol on the day before the attack. The container and other evidence was found at his unit when he was arrested on Tuesday, O'Keefe said.

At the time of the incident, a police official had observed the attack as "a bit strange" and said there was no evidence the attack was racially motivated.