No evidence my fist blow killed the man: Navjot Singh Sidhu on road rage case
There is no conclusive evidence to show that his single fist blow led to the death of a 65-year-old man in a 1988 road rage case, former Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu told the Supreme Court while opposing a plea by the victim’s family to punish him for a more serious offence such as culpable homicide, or even murder, than just causing hurt.
Resisting enhancement of punishment in the 34-year-old fatal road rage case in which the cricketer-turned-politician was let off with a meagre fine of ₹1,000, Sidhu accused the victim’s family of a making a “malicious attempt” to get the 2018 judgment of the top court reopened.
Sidhu, who quit as Punjab Congress chief on March 16 after Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi sacked the party’s chiefs in the five states where it suffered humiliating losses in the recent assembly polls, urged the top court to dismiss the plea. He argued that the only possible conclusion in the given facts of the case was to convict him under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (voluntarily causing hurt) that entails a maximum jail term of one year, or with a fine up to ₹1,000, or both.
“There is no conclusive evidence that the injury caused by the accused resulted in the death of the person...As there was no evidence whatsoever that the death was caused by the single blow by the answering respondent (even assuming the incident did take place), this Hon’ble Court rightly concluded that the same would fall under Section 323 IPC,” stated Sidhu’s affidavit filed before the court.
A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul will take up the review petition filed by the family members of Gurnam Singh, who died in the road rage incident involving the Congress leader and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu, on Monday.
The bench had in September 2018 issued notice to Sidhu on the limited question of revisiting the quantum of punishment awarded to him by the top court in its May 2018 decision that held him guilty under Section 323 of IPC for causing hurt, and directed the payment of a fine of ₹1,000.
However, on February 25, the bench asked Sidhu why the court should not consider punishing him for a more grievous offence after advocate Sidharth Luthra, who appeared for the victim’s family, argued for a formal application to enlarge the ambit of the review petition.
Luthra contended that the 2018 judgment letting off Sidhu lightly failed to heed two previous judgments of the Supreme Court, which declared that intention of the accused is irrelevant when his assault causes death of a person.
Responding to this application, Sidhu maintained the judgments relied upon by the victim’s family are distinguishable only on facts and cannot apply in the present case where the 2018 judgment clearly held there was no proof to show that the injury caused by the Congress leader was the cause of victim’s death.
“The Impugned judgement (of 2018) is based on medical evidence that concluded that the cause of death is uncertain. In the absence of the same, where the only evidence is regarding a head injury due to the single blow, it would have been incorrect to convict the answering respondent under any head covered by ‘offenses affecting life’...Therefore, there is no infirmity in the impugned judgement and the applications are nothing but a malicious attempt for reopening of a well-reasoned judgment,” said Sidhu’s affidavit.
It added that a charge under culpable homicide under sections 299 or 300 of IPC can be made out only where the prosecution succeeds at proving that the victim died due to the injury inflicted by the accused.
“The impugned judgement (of 2018) has specifically concluded that the prosecution has failed to prove that the injuries inflicted by the accused had resulted in death of the deceased. Therefore, in this background, application of Sections 299/ 300 is not possible as these provisions will only apply when the injury has led to death,” stated the reply.
In his affidavit, Sidhu has opposed any further examination of evidence against him, contending that the scope of the review petition was limited, not requiring a court to go into appreciation of evidence at all.
“The review petition cannot be an avenue for rehearing of the matter and reappreciating the evidence... petitioners are simply urging this Hon’ble Court to undertake the exercise of re-appreciating the entire evidence on record, and repeat the overruled arguments, which is neither permissible nor necessary, considering the impugned judgement has dealt with every aspect of the case, including the medical evidence,” added the Congress leader in his affidavit.
Sidhu was initially tried for murder, but the trial court in September 1999 acquitted him. However, the Punjab and Haryana High Court reversed the verdict and held the accused guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and gave Sidhu a three-year prison sentence. But the top court in its May 15, 2018, verdict let him off by asking him to pay a ₹1,000 fine.
In the recently concluded assembly polls, Sidhu lost the Amritsar East seat to Jeevanjyot Kaur of the Aam Aadmi Party by a margin of over 6,000 votes.