The cricketer-turned-politician, Navjot Singh Sidhu, didn't particularly name anybody, but said that he will pray for a long life of those who criticised him
The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted former cricketer and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from culpable homicide charge in a 30-year-old road rage case for which he had been awarded a 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 the other accused, his cousin Rupinder Singh Sandhu, of all charges.
In its judgment, the bench said: "No doubt that there are lapses in the investigation. We cannot hazard a guess whether such lapses occurred because of the general inefficiency of the system or as a consequence of a concerted effort made to protect the accused. The law of this country is not that people are convicted of offences on the basis of doubts."
"I have forgiven them," Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said hours after the Supreme Court held him guilty of only "voluntarily hurting" a 65-year-old man who died in a hospital after being beaten up by Mr Sidhu during a roadside brawl in Patiala in 1988. The former cricketer was let off with a fine of Rs. 1,000 and he can continue as a minister in the Punjab government.
Addressing the media after the ruling, the cricketer-turned-politician didn't particularly name anybody, but said that he will pray for a long life of those who criticised him.
He also phoned, he said, his boss, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, and messaged Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka that "my life is yours".
Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict which had convicted Sidhu and awarded three-year jail term, the apex court said: "... the first accused cannot be held to be responsible for causing the death of Gurnam Singh. Therefore, the judgment under appeal is required to be set aside and is accordingly set aside. The material on record leads us to the only possible conclusion that we can reach that the first accused voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 IPC."
Section 323 (voluntary causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code stipulates a punishment of imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both.
The bench refused to award jail term to Sidhu and only imposed the fine of Rs 1,000 on him, while considering that the "case is 30 years old, there is no past enmity between the accused and the deceased, no weapon was used by the accused and the background in which it happened".
"We are of the opinion, a punishment of imposition of fine of Rs 1,000 would meet the ends of justice in this case," it added.
The incident dates to December 27, 1988, when Sidhu and his cousin had beaten up Gurnam Singh and two others in what was described as a road rage case. Gurnam Singh later died.
On April 12 this year, the Punjab government supported the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court convicting the Minister. It told the apex court that the 65-year-old victim had died after a fist blow from the cricketer-turned-politician.
The state had said there was no evidence at all to suggest that Gurnam Singh died due to cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage.
In 1999, the trial court in Patiala had acquitted Sidhu and his cousin, saying the medical report stated that the death was due to a heart attack.
The High Court in December 2006 had overturned the lower court's decision. It had said that Gurnam Singh did not die of cardiac arrest but due to the injury on his temporal lobe. Sidhu was awarded three years in jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The apex court in 2007 stayed the conviction after counsel appearing for Sidhu had contended that the findings of the High Court were based on opinions and not medical evidence.
Sidhu's lawyer had argued that there were deficiencies in the medical evidence and the prosecution witnesses had given different statements on oath before the trial court.
*Dec 27, 1988: FIR lodged against Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rupinder Sandhu for allegedly beating a man up after he asked him to remove his car from the middle of a road in Patiala. The man died in hospital.
*Jul 14, 1989: Punjab police files charge sheet under section 304 of IPC only against Sandhu.
*Jul 22: A separate complaint of murder filed against both Sidhu and Sandhu.
*Sep 25, 1990: Trial court in Patiala frames charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against Sandhu.
*Aug 30, 1993: Sessions court exercises its power under section 319 of CrPC (adding additional accused) and summons Sidhu to stand trial.
*Sep 22, 1999: Trial Court acquits Sidhu of the murder charges.
*Dec 1, 2006: Punjab and Haryana HC reverses trial court verdict and convicts Sidhu and Sandhu of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentences them to three-year jail with a fine of Rs 1 lakh each.
*Jan 23, 2007: SC stays conviction of Sidhu and co-accused, paving the way for him to contest the by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
*Apr 12, 2018: The Amarinder Singh-led Congress government favours in SC the high court's judgement convicting and awarding the three-year jail term to Sidhu.
*Apr 18: SC reserves verdict on appeals of Sidhu and Sandhu against the HC verdict.
*May 15: SC spares Sidhu from jail term, convicts him for the offence of volunatrily causing hurt and imposes a fine of Rs 1,000.