The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu of culpable homicide charge in a road rage case 30 years ago. However he has been convicted under section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on charges of punishment for voluntary causing hurt, news agency ANI reported.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul said Sidhu is guilty of Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of IPC and is fined Rs 1,000 for the offence.
"A1 (Sidhu) is guilty of Section 323 of IPC. Awarded no sentence but fine of Rs 1,000 for the offence. A2 (Rupinder Singh Sandhu) is acquitted," the bench said.
Addressing the media after the verdict, Sidhu said that that the Almighty has always helped him tide over difficult circumstances. He said,""the Almighty has always helped him tide over difficult circumstances. It is the grace of God which has helped me through trying times.".
Sidhu, who had quit the BJP and joined the Congress days before the Punjab assembly election last year, was awarded three-year jail term and a fine of Rs 1 lakh by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a 1988 road rage case.
Sidhu had challenged the high court's verdict, claiming that evidence about the cause of death of victim Gurnam Singh was contradictory and the medical opinion in this regard was "vague".
Besides Sidhu, an appeal was also filed by Rupinder Singh Sandhu, who was also convicted and sentenced to three-year jail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the same case.
According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were allegedly in a Gypsy parked on 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.
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 Singh was beaten up by Sidhu who later fled the crime scene. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.
During the arguments in the apex court, senior advocate R S Cheema, representing Sidhu, had questioned the evidence brought on record regarding the cause of death of the victim and had also referred to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Ironically, on April 12, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had favoured in the top court the high court's judgement convicting and awarding of the three-year jail term to Sidhu.
Earlier, the counsel for the state had told the apex court that "the trial court verdict was rightly set aside by the High Court. Accused A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) had given fist blow to deceased Gurnam Singh leading to his death through brain haemorrhage".
The state had argued that the trial court was wrong in its finding that the man had died of cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage.
The counsel for the complainant had argued that Sidhu's sentence should be enhanced as it was a case of murder and the cricketer-turned-politician had deliberately removed the keys of deceased's car so that he did not get medical assistance.
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 of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in December 2006. It had sentenced them to three-year jail and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh each on the convicts.
In 2007, the apex court had stayed the conviction of Sidhu and Sandhu in the case, paving the way for him to contest the by-poll for Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday hailed the Supreme Court's verdict which spared state Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu a jail term in a 1988 road rage case.
"I welcome SC judgment in the road rage case against @sherryontopp. His acquittal on culpable homicide charges shows justice has prevailed. I'd always maintained that there was nothing willful in his act, and the judges have also upheld the same. Law has duly taken its course," Singh tweeted.
I welcome SC judgement in the road rage case against @sherryontopp. His acquittal on culpable homicide charges shows justice has prevailed. I’d always maintained that there was nothing wilful in his act, and the judges have also upheld the same. Law has duly taken its course.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) May 15, 2018