Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. The court case relates to the death of a man, a Patiala resident Gurnam Singh, after Sidhu and his friend assaulted him in a road rage incident. Image Credit: ANI

New Delhi: Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was sentenced on Thursday to one year in jail, 34 years after he was accused of killing a man in a fit of rage.

India’s Supreme Court gave its latest ruling after the victim’s family appealed a 2018 verdict that saw the 58-year-old former Test opener walk away with a 1,000-rupee ($13) fine.

A lower court initially sentenced Sidhu to three years in jail over the 1988 incident in which the batsman, a regular part of the national side at the time, and one of his friends beat up a man in a parking lot.

The victim later died in hospital but Sidhu was only convicted for the assault in 1999.

India’s Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 2018, saying the case was over 30 years old and Sidhu had not used a weapon - choosing instead to impose a small fine.

Following the decision, the victim’s family approached the Supreme Court with a plea for a harsher sentence.

The top court said: “We have allowed a review application on the issue of sentence...we impose a sentence of imprisonment of one year to be undergone by the respondent...”

On March 25, the Supreme Court reserved the verdict on a review petition seeking a direction to enhance the sentence awarded to Sidhu in the road rage case.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing Sidhu, submitted before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that sentence was a discretion of court and no interference could be done except in cases of death penalty, given in rarest of the rare and in the present case, and added there was no need to have a relook at the 2018 judgment.

Death due to cardiac arrest

“Appeal on adequacy of sentence should not be entertained. The state is not in appeal against the sentence and the victim cannot challenge the adequacy,” submitted Singhvi. He further added that there has been no allegation of lack of cooperation on the part of his client.

The bench, also comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, noted that the issue before it was only whether despite the court having issued limited notice on (point of) sentence the provision under which sentence has been imposed needs to be looked at.

The bench reserved the judgment after hearing detailed arguments in the matter. The plea was filed by the kin of the deceased, Gurnam Singh seeking a relook on the 2018 judgment.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing the victim’s family, submitted that the death due to cardiac arrest is not correct, and a blow was delivered on the victim. Singhvi vehemently argued that it was extremely doubtful that an injury, caused by a fist blow, could have led to the death.

Luthra argued that the 2018 judgment failed to consider the previous decision in the case of Richhpal Singh Meena vs Ghasi (2014). He added that, in this case, the top court was of the view that when there is death of a human being, it may either be culpable homicide (amounting or not amounting to murder) or not culpable homicide.

The case relates to the death of a man, Patiala resident Gurnam Singh, in December 1988 after Sidhu and a friend assaulted him in a road rage incident.

On December 27, 1988, Sidhu and Rupinder Singh Sandhu allegedly parked their Gypsy in the middle of the road near the Sheranwala Gate crossing in Patiala. When the 65-year-old Gurnam Singh reached the spot in a car, he asked them to move aside.

Sidhu then beat up Singh. He also allegedly removed Singh’s car keys before fleeing so he couldn’t get medical help.

3,202 runs off 51 Test matches

The case has gone through Session Court, High court and Supreme Court. The Sessions Court Judge of Patiala had on September 22, 1999, acquitted Sidhu and his associate, due to a lack of evidence in the case and giving the benefit of the doubt. It was then challenged by the victim’s families before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had in 2006, convicted and sentenced Sidhu to three years imprisonment. Sidhu then filed an appeal before the apex court challenging this order.

A doughty opener, Sidhu scored 3,202 runs off 51 Test matches and 4,413 runs from 136 one-day internationals.

Sidhu is remembered for famously hitting Shane Warne to all corners at the start of the great Australian spinner’s Test career.

He made his political debut with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party before switching to the opposition Congress.