Former Indian cricketer and veteran Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu was awarded a one-year prison sentence by the Supreme Court on Thursday - May 19 in a 1988 road rage case. However, even after serving the incarceration, Sidhu can contest in the polls with no hindrance as the provision of the electoral law would make it possible.
Speaking to PTI, former Lok Sabha Secretary-General and legal expert Achary said, "If the sentence was two years or more, then he (Sidhu) would have been disqualified from contesting elections for six years." Achary has cited Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which deals with and warrants disqualification.
As Sidhu's prison sentence is less than two years, he can contest in the polls immediately after his release. Sidhu has got more prominence through a political dispute in the recently-held Punjab assembly polls. He had also served as the President of the Punjab Congress unit and the verdict has sent shockwaves across the country. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul has on Thursday- May 19 pronounced the verdict of a one-year prison sentence for the Congress leader.
Background of the case:
According to the prosecution, Sidhu and co-accused, Rupinder Singh Sandhu were in a Gypsy in the middle of the road on December 27, 1988, when they had an altercation with 65-year-old Gurnam Singh, a resident of Patiala. The altercation has come up when Gurnam, who was driving a Maruti car, had asked them to give way. The incident had happened near Sheranwala Gate in Patiala, Sidhu's hometown. Police said that Gurnam was beaten up by Sidhu. While the latter fled the scene, the former was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.
Under Sidhu's argument, the trial court has in September 1999 acquitted both Sidhu and Sandhu. However, in December 2006, Punjab and Haryana High Court holds Sidhu and Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced them to three years in jail. Both the accused had challenged the High Court's verdict in the Supreme Court, which had later stayed the conviction.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court has held Sidhu guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to Gurnam, who was a senior citizen at that time. Though the apex court has reversed the high court's verdict, it had only imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 on Sidhu and acquitted him of the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to the murder charge. The court has observed that the incident was three decades old and that there was no enmity between the accused and the victim and that no weapon was used by the accused.
However, in September 2018, Gurnam's family had moved to the Supreme Court with a review petition to treat the offence as more serious than just causing hurt and sought punishment. The court had admitted their petition and then issued notice to Sidhu to respond to the petition. The trial was going on for the past four years during which Sidhu had quoted the medical records that the cause of Gurnam's death could not be ascertained.
However, after the hearings, the Supreme Court has on Thursday awarded a one-year prison sentence to Sidhu. While pronouncing the verdict, the judges said, "We feel there is an error apparent on the face of the record. Therefore, we have allowed the review application on the issue of sentence. In addition to the fine imposed, we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year." Reacting to the verdict, Sidhu, on a Twitter post, wrote, "Will submit to the majesty of law."