Notwithstanding his dramtic gestures like genuflecting in front of the Congress party’s top brass and impassioned speech at the party’s plenary about a month ago, the Punjab Government has sought the conviction of its own Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister and former national cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 road rage case, The Tribune has reported.
During an altercation that happened in Patiala, Sidhu had allegedly repeatedly punched 65- year old Gurnam Singh. Singh was declared dead after being rushed to a hospital, while Sidhu with an accomplice had reportedly fled the scene.
Punjab Government’s counsel Sangram Singh Saron told a Supreme Court (SC) Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul yesterday (12 April) that the trial court’s verdict was unreasonable and was rightly reversed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) which convicted the accused.
Saron also informed the SC bench, “Two eyewitnesses have fully supported the prosecution case. Even the narration of the site plan of the scene of crime in their testimony is identical to the site plan prepared by police.”
In 1999, a Patiala district and session judge had acquitted Sidhu of the charge of causing the death. However, Sidhu was convicted by the Punjab and Haryana HC overturning the earlier acquittal in 2006. He was held guilty under Section 304 Part II, IPC, for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The HC had sentenced him and his counsel to three years in jail for the offence.
Sidhu had joined Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in 2004 and won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat but was jailed and quit as a member of parliament following his conviction by the HC. He was later granted bail by the SC, on his plea seeking suspension of his conviction, which enabled him to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha by-poll again. Sidhu won the by-poll and was also re-elected on a BJP ticket in 2009 Lok Sabha election from the same constituency.
Sidhu vacated the seat in 2014 for his senior colleague Arun Jaitley. He later had a fallout with the BJP leadership over their refusal to break the party's long standing alliance with Akali Dal. He quit the party and joined Congress just in time for the state election despite serious reservations expressed by the undisputed leader of party in state, Captain Amarinder Singh. Sidhu contested as a candidate in the state assembly election and in a reconciliatory gesture Amarinder inducted him in the cabinet.
He was most recently seen falling on feet of Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the Congress party’s plenary session on 18 March.
The SC bench began hearing Sidhu's appeal against the HC judgement from last month (21 March), nearly three decades after the incident. The legal heirs of the deceased Gurnam Singh had filed a fresh plea in the SC accusing Sidhu of having admitted his guilt in the interview given to India TV in 2010.
They submitted video clippings of a famous show Aap Ki Adalat hosted by journalist Rajat Sharma. Sidhu is seen as not only admitting to the involvement of both the accused in the brawl on the date of the incident but also admitted and accepted hitting the victim Gurnam Singh with fist blows which resulted in his death.
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