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Posted at: Sep 12, 2018, 7:51 PM; last updated: Sep 13, 2018, 1:51 AM (IST)

Trouble for Sidhu as SC agrees to hear review petition in road rage case

Trouble for Sidhu as SC agrees to hear review petition in road rage case
Navjot Sidhu. — File photo

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12

Three decades after a man died in a road rage case involving Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the cricketer-turned politician is in a legal trouble again.

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a petition seeking review of its May 15 order that let him off with a fine of Rs 1,000 for voluntarily causing hurt to the deceased under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes a maximum punishment of one-year sentence.

A Bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul - which permitted filing of the review petition by the legal representative of complainant Jaswinder Singh (dead) - on Tuesday condoned the delay and issued notice to Sidhu "restricted to quantum of sentence".

Review petition 

— SC to entertain review petition only on the limited issue of sentence

— It had on May 15 acquitted Sidhu of 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder'

— But he was convicted of voluntarily causing hurt and asked to pay Rs 1,000 fine

— The provision attracts a maximum punishment of one-year jail term

Earlier, a Bench of Justice J Chelameswar (since retired) and Justice Kaul had acquitted him of the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in connection with the 1988 road rage case in which one Gurnam Singh had died after allegedly being beaten up Sidhu and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu.

While acquitting Sidhu of the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the top court had held him guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to deceased Gurnam Singh and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 on him.

Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court's verdict, the top court had acquitted co-accused Sandhu of all charges.

Despite being held guilty, Sidhu's political career had remained untouched as he was not required to go to jail and he did not become ineligible to contest elections. This is because of the fact that under Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person gets disqualified as a lawmaker and becomes ineligible to contest elections only if he/she gets a jail term of two years or more.

Now, if the Supreme Court gives sentences him to imprisonment even for a few months, he would be forced to resign and his political career may take a beating.

Review petitions are generally heard "in chamber" and not in open courts by a procedure called "hearing by circulation" where advocates representing the parties are not allowed to argue. But in exceptional cases, the court allows open court hearing if convinced about its need.

Holding Sidhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had given him a three-year imprisonment.

But the top court had said: "The material on record leads us to the only possible conclusion that we can reach that the first accused (Sidhu) voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 IPC."

According to the prosecution, Sidhu and co-convict Rupinder Singh Sandhu were present in a Gypsy parked near Sheranwala Gate crossing in Patiala on December 27, 1988, while Gurnam Singh was on his way to a bank in a Maruti car with two others. As Gurnam asked the Gypsy occupants to give them way, the duo beat him up and fled. Gurnam was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

Sidhu and Sandhu were initially tried for murder, but the trial court in September 1999 acquitted the cricketer-turned-politician. However, the HC reversed the verdict and held them guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The HC gave them a three-year jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each. Sidhu was given bail in 2007 by the top court, which had also stayed his conviction to enable him to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll from Amritsar that was necessitated by his resignation following the conviction.


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