In a “shock” to Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Congress-led Punjab government Thursday backed the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict that had convicted and awarded three-year jail sentence to the minister in a 1998 road rage case.
Appearing for the Punjab government, advocate S S Saron told a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S K Kaul, “The trial court verdict was rightly set aside by the High Court. Accused A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) had given a fist blow to Gurnam Singh, leading to his death through brain haemorrhage.”
Saron trashed the defence put up by Sidhu that the 65-year-old victim, a Patiala resident, had died of cardiac arrest. “There is not a single evidence which suggests that the cause of death was cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage,” he said.
Sidhu, currently the Local Bodies and Tourism Minister in the Amarinder Singh government, was acquitted along with co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu by the trial court in September 1999. The High Court set aside the order in December 2006 and held them guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In 2007, the apex court stayed their conviction.
Saron referred to the medical board report of the deceased which said Gurnam Singh had died of subdural brain haemorrhage, and not cardiac arrest.
“It is beyond understanding how the trial court arrived at its finding that Gurnam Singh had died of cardiac arrest, when there was not a discussion or evidence about it. Doctors in cross-examination have said the cause of death was head injury,” he said.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the complainant, said Sidhu’s sentence should be enhanced as it was a case of murder since he had deliberately removed keys of the vehicle of the deceased so that he could not get medical assistance.
The hearing will continue on April 17.
Asked if he was shocked by the state government’s stand, Sidhu, who is on a tour of Telangana to study the sand mining policy, said, “Yes, it is shocking. But for the state’s stand, you can ask Captain Amarinder Singh ji or the AG (Advocate General, Atul Nanda).”
Sources in the government said the state’s stand was discussed at a higher level before being sent to the SC. While there was no formal reaction from the Chief Minister’s office, Nanda, who is in Bangkok, said, “The state could not have changed its stand in the FIR that was registered in a murder case.”
“I salute Navjot Singh Sidhu… He has, not even once, tried to influence the prosecution. Every time I have spoken to him, I get a feeling that he wants the law of land to be held supreme. We want to convey a message that we are not like other states like UP where ordinances are passed to scuttle criminal cases against ministers and MLA,” Nanda said.