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Supreme Court to re-examine sentence awarded to Navjot Singh Sidhu in 30-year-old road rage case

In 2007, the apex
court stayed the conviction of Sidhu and Sandhu in the case,
paving the way for him to contest the by-poll for the Amritsar
Lok Sabha seat. (File photo: Reuters)

In setback for Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the
Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine the sentence awarded by
it to the cricketer turned politician in a 30-year-old road
rage case.

The apex court had on May 15 set aside the Punjab and Haryana
High Court order convicting him of culpable homicide and
awarding him three-year jail term, but held him guilty of minor
offence of causing hurt to a senior citizen and spared him of
jail term.

The Supreme Court had however imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 on
Sidhu for the offence under section 323 (voluntarily causing
hurt) of the IPC

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul
agreed to examine a review petition filed by family members of
deceased Jaswinder Singh and issued notice to Sidhu in the
case.

“Issue notice restricted to quantum of sentence qua respondent
no. 1 – Navjot Singh Sidhu,” the bench said in an order which
was uploaded on apex court website on Wednesday.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar (since retired) and Kaul had
on May 15 acquitted Sidhu’s aide an co-accused Rupinder Singh
Sandhu of all charges.

It had said that there was no trustworthy evidence regarding
Sandhu’s presence along with Sidhu at the time of the offence.

Despite conviction, Sidhu was not barred from electoral
politics under the Representation of the People Act as the
offence in which he was found guilty did not fall under the
scheduled offence entailing disqualification.

Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of IPC
entails a maximum jail term up to one year or with a fine which
may extend to Rs 1,000 or both.

The apex court while allowing the appeals of Sidhu and Sandhu,
had said the medical evidence was “absolutely uncertain”
regarding the cause of death of victim Gurnam Singh.

“We find it difficult to sustain the conviction of the first
accused (Sidhu) and set ­aside the same. Because to find a man
guilty of culpable homicide, the basic fact required to be
established is that the accused caused the death. But, as
noticed, the medical evidence is absolutely uncertain regarding
the cause of death of Gurnam Singh,” the earlier bench had
said.

It had said the only fact established on evidence was that
Sidhu gave a single fist blow on the head of the deceased
Gurnam Singh but no weapon was used, nor was there any past
enmity between them.

“It all started with a dispute regarding the right of way
resulting in a brawl between them, a very common sight in this
country,” the bench had said and noted that some verbal
exchanges took place between Sidhu and the deceased.

The top court held that there were lapses in the investigation
but said a person cannot be convicted on basis of doubts.

It had said the material on record leads to the only possible
conclusion that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam
Singh, that is punishable under Section 323 of IPC.

Considering that the incident is 30 years old and no weapon was
used by the accused in the case, the bench had said a fine of
Rs 1000 would meet the ends of justice in the case.

The apex court’s verdict had came on the appeal filed by Sidhu,
who had quit the BJP
and joined the Congress
days before the Punjab Assembly elections last year, and
Sandhu, challenging the high court’s 2006 judgment convicting
them.

According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were in a Gypsy
parked in the middle of a road near the Sheranwala Gate
Crossing in Patiala on December 27, 1988, when the victim and
two others were on their way to the bank to withdraw money.

When they reached the crossing, it was alleged, 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. Sidhu was acquitted of the murder
charges by the trial court in September 1999.

However, the high court had reversed the verdict and held Sidhu
and Sandhu guilty under Section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not
amounting to murder) of the IPC in December 2006. It had
sentenced them to three years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs
1 lakh each on the convicts.

In 2007, the apex court stayed the conviction of Sidhu and
Sandhu in the case, paving the way for him to contest the
by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

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