Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu today told the Supreme Court that the findings of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had awarded him three-year jail in a 1988 road rage case, were based on “opinion” and not on medical evidence.
Sidhu, who had quit the BJP and joined the Congress days before the Punjab assembly election last year, told a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S K Kaul that there were “deficiencies” in the medical evidence and the prosecution witnesses had given different statements on oath before the trial court.
“The findings (of the high court) were based on opinion and not on medical evidence. There was no rationale for this kind of an opinion,” senior advocate R S Cheema, appearing for Sidhu who is now Punjab’s Tourism Minister, told the bench. Ironically, on April 12, the Amarinder Singh government had favoured in the top court the high court’s verdict convicting and awarding the 3-year jail term to Sidhu.
The former cricketer argued that there was “ambiguity” regarding the actual cause of death of Patiala resident Gurnam Singh, who had died after he was allegedly given a fist blow by Sidhu. Referring to the statements of three prosecution witnesses before the trial court, Cheema said they had spoken in “different language”. He argued that a six-member board of medical experts was constituted to give their opinion on the cause of death but some of them were not examined as witnesses in the case.
Cheema said two doctors, who were part of the board, were examined as witnesses in the case but the prosecution had not placed on record any material to show that there were deliberations among these experts regarding the cause of death. “The deficiencies in the medical evidence was writ large,” he said during the arguments which would continue tomorrow.
Earlier, the counsel for the state had told the apex court that “the trial court verdict was rightly set aside by the High Court. Accused A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) had given fist blow to deceased Gurnam Singh leading to his death through brain haemorrhage.”
The state had argued that the trial court was wrong in its finding that the man had died of cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage. The counsel for the complainant had argued that Sidhu’s sentence should be enhanced as it was a case of murder and the cricketer-turned-politician had deliberately removed the keys of the deceased’s car so that he does not get medical assistance. 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 co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in December 2006. It had sentenced them to three-year jail and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh each on the convicts.
In 2007, the apex court had 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. As per prosecution case, Sidhu and Sandhu were allegedly present in a Gypsy parked near Sheranwala Gate Crossing in Patiala on December 27, 1988, when Gurnam Singh, Jaswinder Singh and another person were going to the bank to withdraw money for a marriage function.
It was alleged that when they had reached the crossing, Gurnam Singh, driving a Maruti car, found the Gypsy in the middle of the road and asked the occupants, Sidhu and Sandhu, to remove the vehicle for their passage. This led to heated exchanges. The police had claimed that Singh was beaten up by Sidhu who later fled the crime scene. The injured was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.