The Supreme Court has begun hearing the final arguments in the culpable homicide case, involving the three-time Amritsar MP and current cabinet minister in Punjab government, Navjot Singh Sidhu as the prime accused.
According to the prosecution, on December 27, 1988, when Gurnam asked the occupants of a Gypsy to give way to his car, Sidhu got out, allegedly dragged Gurnam out and gave him fisticuffs. After the assault, Sidhu and Sandhu sped away and reportedly took the keys of Gurnam’s car along. When Gurnam was taken to a hospital, he was declared brought dead by the doctors.
Initially, Sidhu and the co-accused were tried for murder in connection with the death of Patiala resident Gurnam Singh in a road-rage case in 1988. But they were acquitted by the Patiala sessions judge in 1999.
The state government and the son of the deceased then challenged this verdict in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Subsequently, Sidhu and Sandhu were sentenced to three years in jail each by the High Court in 2006. Their conviction had come under under Section 304(II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).
Sidhu appealed against this verdict in the Supreme Court, which stayed his conviction and suspended the sentence in January 2007.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, now the Union Finance Minister, along with veteran lawyer Harish Salve, had appeared for Sidhu in the apex court.
By this time, Sidhu had joined BJP and won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2004.
One of the chief grounds for staying his conviction was that Sidhu, on moral grounds, had resigned after the HC verdict but wanted to contest again to win back Amritsar in the bypoll.
This stay order enabled Sidhu to carry on with his political endeavours while the matter remained pending before the Court ever since.
After the HC judgment, while Sidhu had challenged his conviction, son of the victim and an injured eye-witness also moved the top court for enhancing Sidhu’s punishment.
Former Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar and former Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra are set to argue on behalf of the duo, who want Sidhu’s punishment enhanced.
It is still to be seen whether Punjab government fields any senior lawyer to defend its own prosecution, particularly in view of the fact that Sidhu is a serving minister in the state government at the moment.
As Sidhu pads up for a new political innings in Punjab after switching sides, his political career is going to hinge largely on the outcome of this case. This is also going to be an opportunity for his political opponents to rake up the case to embarrass the Congress government in Punjab.
Not only this, if Sidhu’s conviction and sentence is upheld, he will be disqualified from his office under the Representation of the People Act. His new innings may see an abrupt ending with his disqualification kicking in for six years after his release from the jail.