In a setback to cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court has order to reconsider the punishment for the Punjab minister in the 1998 road rage case. Four months after the SC let off Sidhu in the 30-year-old case with a meager fine of Rs 1,000, another Supreme Court bench on Wednesday agreed to reexamine the quantum of punishment to the Punjab Congress MLA. The victim in the road rage case is no more.
Admitting a review petition filed by the son of the deceased in the incident, the apex court has issued a notice to the Punjab minister on the point of punishment. "Permission to file the Review Petition is granted. Delay condoned. Issue notice restricted to quantum of sentence qua respondent no. 1 – Navjot Singh Sidhu," stated a bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay K Kaul.
The road rage incident dates back to 27 December, 1988, when Sidhu allegedly punched 65-year-old Gurnam Singh in Patiala, Punjab, resulting in the latter's death. Giving Sidhu the benefit of doubt, a trial court in Patiala had on 22 September, 1999, acquitted him and his cousin, Rupinder Singh Sandhu, saying the medical report stated that the death was due to a heart attack.
However, the verdict was challenged by the Punjab government and the victim's families before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had in 2006, convicted and sentenced Navjot Singh Sidhu to three years' imprisonment. The SC in 2007 stayed the conviction after counsel appearing for Sidhu had contended that the findings of the high court were based on opinions and not medical evidence.
Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict, the Supreme Court in May acquitted Sidhu of culpable homicide not amounting to murder charges but convicted him for causing simple injury and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000. The court also acquitted the other accused, Rupinder, of all charges. Reportedly, the Supreme Court has not agreed to review the entire judgment but only the aspect on the quantum of punishment. This also means that Sidhu's acquittal under the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall stick and that would not be altered by the court.
As far as the quantum of punishment is concerned, 54-year old politician currently stands convicted under Section 323 for causing hurt. The maximum punishment under Section 323 is a jail term of one year or a fine of Rs 1,000, or both. But as per the Representation of the People Act, it is only a jail term of two years or more that incurs disqualification of a sitting MP or a MLA.Watch the space for more updates on the case.