The Supreme Court allowed review of its May 2018 order providing relief to Sidhu in the 1988 case in which Patiala resident Gurnam Singh succumbed to his injuries.
The Supreme Court awarded a one-year jail term to cricketer-turned-comedian-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 road rage case. The former Punjab Congress chief will be detained. The maximum possible punishment under Section 323 of the IPC has been awarded to Sidhu.
The politician was fined Rs. 1,000 earlier. The Supreme Court allowed review of its May 2018 order providing relief to Sidhu in the 1988 case in which Patiala resident Gurnam Singh succumbed to his injuries.
On May 15, 2018, the apex court set aside the Punjab and Haryana court order that convicted Sidhu of culpable homicide and awarded him a jail term of three years. Instead, the high court found him guilty of harming an elderly person.
The Supreme Court had spared Sidhu jail time and imposed a fine of Rs. 1,000 despite finding him guilty of “wilfully causing hurt” to a 65-year-old man. The Supreme Court also agreed to consider a review petition by the deceased’s relatives and issued a notice to Sidhu in this regard in September 2018.
The apex court said that in the given circumstances, one may have lost one’s temper, but then one must bear the consequences of losing one’s temper.
The apex court, while allowing the review petition filed by the complainant on the issue of the sentence, said that this is a case where some “facts relevant to the sentence” appear to have been lost sight of by imposing only a fine on the Congress leader.
Though the apex court had convicted Sidhu in May 2018 for the offense of “voluntarily causing hurt” to a 65-year-old man, it spared him a jail term and imposed a fine of Rs. 1,000.
Pointing out that the hand can also be a weapon in itself when a boxer, wrestler, cricketer, or a person in very good physical shape inflicts a blow, the apex court said it did believe that no leniency was required to be shown at the sentencing stage for only imposing a fine and letting Sidhu go without any imposition of sentence.
“Result of the above is that the revision applications/petitions are allowed to the above extent and in addition to the fine imposed we deem it fit to impose imprisonment for the period of one-year rigorous imprisonment at the expense of respondent No.1 (Sidhu),” a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and S K Kaul said.
It said some material aspects to be taken into account seemed to have been somehow overlooked at the sentencing stage, such as Sidhu’s physical condition as he was an international cricketer, tall and well-built, and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry.
“The blow was not inflicted on a person in identical physical condition but on a person 65 years of age, more than twice his age. Defendant No. 1 (Sidhu) cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect,” he said.
“It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury that could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, you may have lost your temper, but then you have to bear the consequences of losing your temper,” the court said.
The bench noted that the apex court, to some extent, had been lenient in finding him ultimately guilty of the offense of simple mischief under section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the question is whether even on conviction, the mere passage of time can result in a fine of Rs. 1,000 which is an appropriate sentence when a person has lost his life due to the severity of the blow inflicted by Sidhu, who was 25 years old at the time, with his hands.
Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC carries a maximum jail term of up to one year or a fine which can extend to Rs. 1,000 or both.
“The hand can also be a weapon in itself when, for example, a boxer, wrestler or cricketer or a person in very good physical shape inflicts the same. This can be understood when a blow can be delivered by a physically fit person or by an older person,” the bench said.
It said that as far as the injuries caused, the top court has admitted the allegation of a single blow with the hand on the head of the deceased.
“In our view, it is this meaning that is an apparent error in the record that needs some corrective action,” it said.
In its 24-page judgment, the court deliberated on the need to maintain a reasonable proportion between the seriousness of the offense and the penalty.
“While a disproportionately severe sentence should not be passed, at the same time it is also not for the courts to pass a sentence which would be manifestly inadequate, having due regard to the nature of the offense, as an inadequate sentence would not produce a result deterrent effect on the society at large,” the court said.
It said the principle of just punishment is the “basis of sentencing” in respect of a criminal offense.
“An important aspect to bear in mind is that any undue sympathy for imposing inappropriate sentences would further damage the justice system and undermine public confidence in the efficacy of the law,” it said.
Meanwhile, he “unequivocally” rejected the argument for expanding the scope of the review application.
In September 2018, the apex court had agreed to consider the review application filed by the relatives of the deceased and issued the notice, restricted to the quantum of penalty.
On May 15, 2018, the apex court set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court order convicting Sidhu of culpable homicide and awarded him imprisonment for three years in the case, but found him guilty of causing hurt to an elderly person.
The apex court also acquitted Sidhu’s aide Rupinder Singh Sandhu of all charges and said there was no reliable evidence about his presence along with Sidhu at the time of the crime in December 1988.
The May 2018 verdict came on the appeal filed by Sidhu and Sandhu against the 2006 high court judgment that convicted them.