As cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu pads up for a new political innings in Punjab after resigning from the Rajya Sabha, the electoral career of the three-time Amritsar MP hinges on a culpable homicide case pending in the Supreme Court.
With Sidhu set to switch sides, political opponents, who take him as a formidable challenge, have begun exploring legal options to rake up the road rage case.
Convicted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the said case in 2006, Sidhu appealed against the verdict in the Supreme Court, which suspended the high court verdict on January 23, 2007. An adverse apex court verdict can jeopardise his political career.
Overturning his acquittal by a lower court, Sidhu and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu were convicted by the high court under Section 304(II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in connection with the death of Patiala resident Gurnam Singh in a road-rage case in 1988.
Both were sentenced to three-year rigorous imprisonment each, along with Rs 1lakh fine.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, now Union finance minister, had appeared for Sidhu in the apex court.
Initially, Sidhu and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu were tried for murder (Section 302, IPC) and were acquitted by the Patiala sessions judge in 1999. The Punjab government challenged the verdict in the high court.
When this correspondent contacted victim Gurnam Singh’s family, his son Ripuinderjit Singh said, “We don’t want to make any comment. Kindly excuse us.” After the high court verdict in 2006, Ripuinderjit had expressed dissatisfaction over the ‘light’ punishment Sidhu had got.
“The family is waiting for listing of the case in the Supreme Court. But one thing is clear, Gurnam’s family is still demanding stringent punishment for Sidhu and Sandhu,” said a close family friend.
On December 27, 1988, victim Gurnam Singh, along with Jaswinder Singh and Avtar Singh, was driving a Maruti car to a bank ahead of his son’s wedding. When Gurnam reached near Sheranwala Gate Crossing, he found a Maruti Gypsy (PAD-6030) blocking the road. When he asked the occupants of the Gypsy to give way, Navjot Sidhu got out, allegedly dragged Gurnam out and gave him fisticuffs. When Jaswinder went to Gurnam’s rescue, co-accused Sandhu attacked him. Sidhu and Sandhu sped away and reportedly took the keys of Gurnam’s car along. Gurnam, who was lying on the ground after the assault, was rushed to Rajindra Hospital by Avtar and Jaswinder, where doctors declared him dead. Jaswinder then lodged an FIR at the Kotwali police station, following which Sidhu and Sandhu were booked for murder.