Road rage: Trial court rightly acquitted Sidhu, says counsel

New Delhi, April 18: Five days after Punjab sought the conviction of its Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu in the 1988 road rage case in which a man had died allegedly after being beaten up by him and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu, the cricketer-turned-politician on Tuesday sought to debunk the prosecution theory.

Defending Sidhu before the Supreme Court, senior counsel RS Cheema said the trial court had rightly acquitted him as there was no evidence requiring his conviction.

“It was not the fault of the accused (Sidhu) due to which the victim died,” Cheema told a Bench of Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul narrating the sequence of events and the medical evidence.

Cheema said the reversal of the trial court’s verdict acquitting the accused was based on the judges’ opinion and not on evidence. There was no conclusive evidence to show that Gurnam Singh (deceased) died due to head injury caused by the accused, he said, highlighting “deficiencies” in medical evidence.
Cheema would continue his arguments on Wednesday.

According to the prosecution, Sidhu and his friend Sandhu were allegedly present in a Gypsy parked near Sheranwala Gate Crossing 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, he was beaten up by the accused who fled the scene. 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 High Court reversed the verdict and held him and co-accused Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for the death of Gurnam Singh in Patiala in 1988.

The High Court sentenced them to a three-year imprisonment. He was given bail in 2007 by the top court, which had also stayed his conviction to enable him contest Lok Sabha bypolls from Amritsar that was caused by resignation following the conviction.
Last week, on behalf of the Punjab Government, advocate Sangram Singh Saron had told the apex court that the statement given by Sidhu, denying his involvement in the case, was false.
“The trial court’s verdict was unreasonable and was rightly reversed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court which convicted the accused,” Saron had told the top court.