New Delhi: The Supreme Court today convicted Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for voluntarily causing hurt to a 65-year-old man but spared him a jail term in the 1988 road rage case.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul said Sidhu is guilty of Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and is fined Rs 1,000 for the offence.
"A1 (Sidhu) is guilty of Section 323 of IPC. Awarded no sentence but fine of Rs 1,000 for the offence. A2 (Rupinder Singh Sandhu) is acquitted," the bench said.
On April 18, the apex court had reserved its judgement in the case in which Sidhu had claimed that evidence about the cause of death of the victim Gurnam Singh was contradictory and medical opinion on the issue was "vague".
Besides Sidhu, who quit the BJP and joined the Congress days before the Punjab assembly election last year, an appeal was also filed by Rupinder Singh Sandhu, also convicted and sentenced to three years in jail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2006.
According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were allegedly in a Gypsy parked in the middle of a road near the Sheranwala Gate Crossing in Patiala on December 27, 1988, when the victim and two others were on their way to the bank to withdraw money.
It was alleged that when they reached the crossing, Gurnam Singh, driving a Maruti car, found the Gypsy in the middle of the road and asked the occupants, Sidhu and Sandhu, to remove it. This led to heated exchanges.
The police had claimed that Singh was beaten up by Sidhu who later fled the crime scene. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.
On April 12, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had favoured in the top court the high court's judgement convicting and awarding of the three-year jail term to Sidhu.
Earlier, the counsel for the state had told the apex court that "the trial court verdict was rightly set aside by the High Court. Accused A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) had given fist blow to deceased Gurnam Singh leading to his death through brain hemorrhage".
The state had argued that the trial court was wrong in its finding that the man had died of cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage.
The counsel for the complainant had argued that Sidhu's sentence should be enhanced as it was a case of murder and the cricketer-turned-politician had deliberately removed the keys of deceased's car so he did not get medical assistance.
Sidhu was acquitted of the murder charges by the trial court in September 1999.
However, the high court had reversed the verdict and held Sidhu and Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in December 2006. It had sentenced them to three years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on the convicts.
In 2007, the apex court had stayed the conviction of Sidhu and Sandhu in the case, paving the way for him to contest the by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.