The Supreme Court Monday said it would hear on March 25 the plea seeking review of the sentence awarded by it in May 2018 to cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 road rage case. The matter was listed for hearing before a special bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and S K Kaul.
As soon the bench of Justices Khanwilkar and A S Oka assembled for hearing matters in the post-lunch session, Justice Khanwilkar said the special bench would hear the review plea on Friday. This bench is going to continue with the remaining work. So, the special bench matter can be taken up on Friday at 2 PM, Justice Khanwilkar said.
On February 25, the apex court had asked Congress leader Sidhu to file response within two weeks on an application which has said that his conviction in the case should not have been merely for the lesser offence of voluntarily causing hurt. Though the top court had in May 2018 held Sidhu guilty of the offence of “voluntarily causing hurt” to a 65-year-old man, it spared him of a jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000.
Later in September 2018, the apex court agreed to examine a review petition filed by the family members of the deceased and had issued notice, restricted to the quantum of sentence. In a reply filed to the application seeking enlargement of scope of notice, Sidhu has said the apex court, after a careful perusal of the contents of the review petitions, has restricted its scope to quantum of sentence. It is well settled that whenever this court issues notice confining to sentence, arguments will be heard only to that effect unless some extraordinary circumstance/material is shown to the Court. It is respectfully submitted that the contents of the present applications reiterate only overruled arguments and do not show any extraordinary material, calling for interference on all aspects from this court, the reply said.
It said the petitioners have moved the applications after a lapse of about three-and-a-half-year from the issuance of limited notice on September 11, 2018 and this unaccounted delay without any cogent explanation raises doubts on the bonafides of the applications It is respectfully submitted that the present applications seeking expansion of the limited notice will amount to a second review which is impermissible in law, it said, adding, It is further submitted that the petitioners through the present applications are requesting this court to undertake a roving/fishing enquiry and re-appreciate the entire evidence on record. The reply said the apex court had perused the entire evidence on record, including medical evidence, to conclude that cause of death of Gurnam Singh could not be ascertained.
The impugned judgement has specifically concluded that the prosecution has failed to prove that the injuries inflicted by the accused had resulted in death of the deceased. Therefore, in this background, application of sections 299/300 (of the Indian Penal Code) is not possible as these provisions will only apply when the injury has led to death, it said. It said as there was no evidence whatsoever that the death was caused by the single blow by the answering respondent (even assuming the incident did take place), this court rightly concluded that the same would fall under section 323 IPC.
Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code entails a maximum jail term of up to one year or with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both. While seeking dismissal of the applications, the reply said there is no infirmity in the verdict delivered by the apex court and the applications are nothing but a malicious attempt for reopening of a well-reasoned judgment.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for one of the petitioners, had earlier told the apex court that they have moved an application seeking enlargement of scope of the notice. The apex court had on May 15, 2018, set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court order convicting Sidhu of culpable homicide and awarding him a three-year jail term in the case, but had held him guilty of causing hurt to a senior citizen.
The top court had also acquitted Sidhu’s aide Rupinder Singh Sandhu of all charges saying there was no trustworthy evidence regarding his presence along with Sidhu at the time of the offence in December 1988. Later in September 2018, the apex court had agreed to examine a review petition filed by the family members of the deceased. The apex court’s May 2018 verdict had come on the appeal filed by Sidhu 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 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 them.