Apex court verdict in Sidhu road rage case today

New Delhi, May 15: The Supreme Court will on Tuesday pronounce its judgment on Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s appeal against a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict sentencing him to three-year imprisonment in a 1988 road rage case.

A Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, which had on April 18 reserved its verdict on cross-appeals by Sidhu, the state of Punjab and the victim’s family, is likely to pronounce its verdict at 10.30 am.

According to the prosecution, Sidhu and co-convict Rupinder Singh Sandhu were allegedly 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.

If the SC upholds Sidhu’s conviction and the three-year jail term or convicts him of murder and awards him life imprisonment, it would virtually end his political career. Under the present election law, a lawmaker immediately loses his seat on conviction and becomes ineligible to contest elections for six years, after the end of the sentence.

While Sidhu rubbished the prosecution theory, the Punjab Government defended the HC verdict. The legal heirs of the complainant have demanded that Sidhu should be convicted of murder. Defending Sidhu before the SC, senior counsel RS Cheema had contended that the trial court had rightly acquitted him as there was no evidence requiring his conviction.

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