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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sidhu convicted in 1988 road rage case

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In a big relief to former cricketer and Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted him from culpable homicide charges in a 30-year-old road rage case for which he was awarded three-year jail term.

A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul acquitted Sidhu of culpable homicide not amounting to murder charges, but convicted him for causing simple injury and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 without any jail term.

The court also acquitted other accused, his cousin Rupinder Singh Sandhu, of all charges.

Sidhu, who is the tourism minister in the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab, was awarded a three-year jail term by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a 1988 road rage case.

He had allegedly hit a 65-year-old man, Gurnam Singh, on the head during an argument over the parking of a car in December 1988. Gurnam Singh died in hospital.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul had on April 18 reserved its judgment in the case in which Sidhu had claimed that evidence about the cause of death of 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 a three-year jail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the 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.

Ironically, on April 12, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had favoured in the top court the high court's judgment 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 and 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.

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