New Delhi: In a huge set back to Punjab minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court has issued notice on a question of enhancing his punishment in a road rage case, in which a 65-year-old man died in 1988.
In May this year, a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar (since retired) set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment awarding three years imprisonment to Sidhu treating it as ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’. The court acquitted him by imposing a fine of Rs 1,000.
Aggrieved by this order, Jaswinder Singh, the legal representative of the victim moved the court seeking review of the verdict. It was submitted that the judgment acquitting Sidhu had resulted in the miscarriage of justice and that the punishment should be enhanced.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul after perusing the materials in the chamber issued notice and said it is restricted to the quantum of sentence qua respondent no. 1 – Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Sidhu had allegedly hit a 65-year-old man, Gurnam Singh, on the head during an argument in a road in Patiala on December 27, 1988. Gurnam Singh died of a haemorrhage in hospital.
In 2007, the Supreme Court suspended Sidhu's sentence and granted him bail after he appealed his conviction by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The suspended sentence enabled him to contest the Lok Sabha by-polls from Amritsar.
Giving the benefit of doubt, Justice Chelameswar had held that the evidence on record indicated that the assault of Sidhu resulted in very minor abrasion over the left temporal region. The material on record leads us to the only possible conclusion that Sidhu voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under IPC Section 323 and this was not the reason for the death.
The top court said it is very difficult to come to the conclusion that the victim died not because of heart attack but only because of haemorrhage.
The apex court observed that the high court had rendered a finding that haemorrhage is the cause of death, which is not correct. Therefore, Sidhu cannot be held responsible for causing the death of Gurnam Singh.
For the offence of voluntarily causing hurt, the bench slapped a fine of Rs 1000 on Sidhu.