The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday found former cricketer and BJP MP from Amritsar Navjot Singh Sidhu guilty of causing the death of a man he had beaten during a street scuffle in Patiala 18 years ago.
The sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday. Sidhu could be sent to prison for 10 years — the maximum punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Soon after the verdict, Sidhu, who was in Delhi, gave up his Lok Sabha seat. “Without resorting to technical arguments… I tender my resignation…,” he wrote in a letter sent to the Lok Sabha secretariat. “I’ve always stood for truth and moral grounds and these principles are above any office or power that I hold.”
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee did not accept the letter. Under the Rules of the House, a member has to give his resignation in a prescribed format that does not allow him to give any reason for quitting. Sidhu has given reasons.
Overturning a Patiala court’s judgment of 1999, Justices M.S. Gill and Baldev Singh pronounced Sidhu and his friend Rupinder Sandhu guilty under Sec. 300, Exception 4, IPC.
As per this exception, culpable homicide is not murder if it is “committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel”.
Jaswinder Singh, the complainant, said Sidhu and Sandhu assaulted him and his uncle Gurnam Singh after they overtook the duo’s car on December 27, 1988. Sidhu and Sandhu then snatched the key to Jaswinder and Gurnam’s car and drove off. Gurnam, who had collapsed from the beating, was taken to hospital in a rickshaw, where he was declared dead.
The judges rejected the argument that Gurnam had died after a cardiac arrest. “We cannot be oblivious of the fact that... subdeural haemorrage was present... as spelt out by a medical expert. It is in fact this haemorrhage which caused the death of Gurnam Singh, and not the cardiac arrest,” they said.
Sidhu appeared relaxed at a press conference he addressed in Parliament House. He harped upon his “moral and ethical” move to resign, and even let loose a Sidhuism, one of his trademark witticisms. (With Saroj Nagi and Hemendra Singh Bartwal in New Delhi)