The Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 15 acquitted Navjot Sidhu of the charge of culpable homicide in a 30-year-old road rage case in which the cricketer-turned-comedy show anchor and politician had hit Gurnam Singh, 65, who died.
The SC bench of Justices Jasti Chelameswar and SK Kaul instead convicted Sidhu of the lesser offence of voluntarily causing hurt with no intention to murder under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
As punishment for this crime, Sidhu was fined Rs.1000, with no jail term. Section 323 of IPC says whosoever voluntarily causes hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
The court also acquitted Sidhu’s aide Rupinder Singh Sandhu in the case.
The SC bench overturned the Punjab and Haryana High Court order convicting Sidhu and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu under Section of 304 (2) of the IPC for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentencing them both to three years’ imprisonment.
A confirmation of the high court order would have led to the disqualification of Sidhu from the legislature and the government as per the Representation of the People Act.
Sidhu’s counsel RS Cheema argued before the court that the medical opinion on the cause of death of the victim, Gurnam Singh, was vague.
Interestingly, the State prosecution also agreed with the high court’s conviction and sentence for the Tourism Minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government. The prosecution said Sidhu and Sandhu, represented by senior counsel R Basant and advocate Karthik Ashok, were allegedly in a Gypsy parked on the middle of a road near the Sheranwala Gate Crossing in Patiala on December 27, 1988.
The victim and two others were on their way to the bank to withdraw money. It was alleged that when they had reached the crossing, Gurnam Singh, driving a Maruti car, found the Gypsy in the middle of the road and asked the occupants, Sidhu and Sandhu, to remove it. This led to heated exchanges.
The police had claimed that Gurnam Singh was beaten up by Sidhu, who later fled the crime scene. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.