Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday told the Supreme Court that he had misused the application process to extend the notice notice given to him in the 1988 road rage case. Although the Supreme Court in May 2018 convicted Sidhu of the crime of “voluntarily hitting” a 65-year-old man, it saved him a jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and SK Kaul had earlier asked Sidhu to file his response to the appeal, saying he should not have been convicted in the case for the lesser offense of voluntary injury. “This is an extraordinary case in a negative sense which is not worthy of the amusement of your mastery as it has the potential to destroy the very foundations of the criminal trial and, therefore, the misuse of the process,” said senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Sidhu.
He referred to the May 2018 judgment of the apex court which said that the medical evidence regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh was absolutely uncertain. The Supreme Court, while hearing the progress submissions of the petitioners and the advocates appearing for Sidhu, reserved its judgment.
Veteran lawyer Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners, referred to the 2018 Supreme Court judgment in the matter and said that the victim’s postmortem report spoke of the victim’s injuries. Referring to the previous two judgments of the apex court, he said the matter needed to be reconsidered.
I’m not saying to re-evaluate the evidence … I’m going according to the information recognized in your Lordship judgment .., Luthra said. At the end of the hearing, Singhvi said that the petitioners are seeking review of the petition by filing an application for extension of notice in this regard.
“The time was before the election. Now there is no election. I don’t know why it was suddenly activated,” he said. In this regard, the bench said, it has nothing to do with the election.
The bench observed that notice was issued to Sidhu but he did not appear for more than three years. In September 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to examine a review petition filed by the family members of the deceased and issued a notice limiting the amount of punishment.
In response to a petition seeking extension of notice, Sidhu said that the Supreme Court, after carefully reviewing the contents of the review petition, had limited his scope to the extent of punishment. It is well settled that whenever this court issues a limited notice within the sentence, the court will hear arguments only for that effect unless some exceptional circumstances / elements are shown. It is submitted with respect that the contents of the present application only recover invalid arguments and do not show any extraordinary material, calling for intervention from all sides of this court, the reply said.
Sidhu said the petitioners had moved the petitions almost three and a half years after the issuance of the limited notice on September 11, 2018 and cast doubt on the veracity of this incalculable delay without any reasonable explanation. The application replied that the cause of death of Gurnam Singh could not be ascertained and concluded that the Supreme Court had reviewed all the evidence on record, including medical evidence.
Sidhu said that while there was no evidence that the respondent had died as a result of a single injury to the respondent (even assuming the incident had taken place), the court had rightly ruled that it would fall under section 323 of the IPC. Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for voluntary injury) carries a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of up to Rs 1,000 or both.
The apex court on May 15, 2018 quashed the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court convicting Sidhu of criminal murder and sentencing him to three years imprisonment in the case, but found him guilty of injuring a senior citizen. The apex court also acquitted Sidhu’s accomplice Rupinder Singh Sandhu of all charges alleging that there was no credible evidence of his presence with Sidhu at the time of the crime in December 1988.
Later in September 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to examine a review petition filed by family members of the deceased. The May 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court came and Sidhu and Sandhu were found guilty of challenging the 2006 judgment of the High Court on an appeal filed by them.
According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were in a gypsy parked in the middle of a road near 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 that Gurnam Singh, who was driving a Maruti, found the gypsy in the middle of the road and asked Sidhu and Sandhu to remove it. This results in heated exchanges.
Sidhu was acquitted of murder by a trial court in September 1999. However, the High Court reversed the verdict and convicted Sidhu and Sandhu in December 2006 under section 304 (II) (not murder) of the IPC.
They were sentenced to three years in prison and fined Tk 1 lakh each.
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