In setback for Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine the sentence awarded by it to the cricketer turned politician in a 30-year-old road rage case.
The apex court had on May 15 set aside the Punjab and Haryana high court order convicting him of culpable homicide and awarding him three-year jail term, but held him guilty of minor offence of causing hurt to a senior citizen and spared him of jail term.
The Supreme Court had however imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 on Sidhu for the offence under section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul agreed to examine a review petition filed by family members of deceased Jaswinder Singh and issued notice to Sidhu in the case.
"Issue notice restricted to quantum of sentence qua respondent no. 1 – Navjot Singh Sidhu," the bench said in an order which was uploaded on apex court website on Wednesday.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar (since retired) and Kaul had on May 15 acquitted Sidhu's aide an co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu of all charges.
It had said that there was no trustworthy evidence regarding Sandhu's presence along with Sidhu at the time of the offence.
Despite conviction, Sidhu was not barred from electoral politics under the Representation of the People Act as the offence in which he was found guilty did not fall under the scheduled offence entailing disqualification.
Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of IPC entails a maximum jail term up to one year or with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both.
The apex court while allowing the appeals of Sidhu and Sandhu, had said the medical evidence was "absolutely uncertain" regarding the cause of death of victim Gurnam Singh.
"We find it difficult to sustain the conviction of the first accused (Sidhu) and set aside the same. Because to find a man guilty of culpable homicide, the basic fact required to be established is that the accused caused the death. But, as noticed, the medical evidence is absolutely uncertain regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh," the earlier bench had said.
It had said the only fact established on evidence was that Sidhu gave a single fist blow on the head of the deceased Gurnam Singh but no weapon was used, nor was there any past enmity between them.
"It all started with a dispute regarding the right of way resulting in a brawl between them, a very common sight in this country," the bench had said and noted that some verbal exchanges took place between Sidhu and the deceased.
The top court held that there were lapses in the investigation but said a person cannot be convicted on basis of doubts.
It had said the material on record leads to the only possible conclusion that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh, that is punishable under Section 323 of IPC.
Considering that the incident is 30 years old and no weapon was used by the accused in the case, the bench had said a fine of Rs 1000 would meet the ends of justice in the case.
The apex court's verdict had came on the appeal filed by Sidhu, who had quit the BJP and joined the Congress days before the Punjab Assembly elections last year, and Sandhu, challenging the high court's 2006 judgment convicting them.
According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were 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.
When they reached the crossing, it was alleged, 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. 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 under Section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC 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 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.