Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu will not go to jail but has been fined Rs. 1,000 in a 30-year-old road rage case. The Supreme Court today said the cricketer-turned-politician is guilty of "voluntarily hurting" a 65-year-old man who died in hospital after being beaten up by Mr Sidhu during a roadside brawl in Patiala in 1988.
The punishment for the charges against Mr Sidhu is one year in jail or fine or both. The court ruled that given the background of the case -- it was 30 years old, there was no enmity between the two and Mr Sidhu didn't use any weapon -- "a fine of Rs. 1,000 would meet the ends of justice in this case".
Mr Sidhu, 55, can continue as a minister in the Punjab government after today's court ruling.
Soon after, Mr Sidhu thanked "the Almighty who has always helped him tide over difficult circumstances". He added, "I have messaged Rahul Gandhi ji and Priyanka ji that my life is yours. I want to thank those who prayed for me and I forgive those who pointed fingers at me."
His boss, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, too, "welcomed the judgement" on Twitter. The Punjab government had earlier backed Mr Sidhu's conviction in court, saying it couldn't possibly change a stand it had taken before two courts.
"His acquittal on culpable homicide charges shows justice has prevailed. I'd always maintained that there was nothing wilful in his act, and the judges have also upheld the same. Law has duly taken its course," Captain Singh tweeted.
Gurnam Singh, the man who was struck on the head during an argument with Mr Sidhu, died of a haemorrhage at a hospital later. Mr Sidhu argued that he had died of a cardiac arrest.
A trial court had discharged Mr Sidhu, but the Punjab and Haryana High Court held him guilty of culpable homicide in 2006 and sent him to jail for three years. In 2007, the Supreme Court suspended Mr Sidhu's sentence and granted him bail. The suspended sentence enabled him to contest the Lok Sabha bypolls from Amritsar.
Last month, Mr Sidhu aprroached the top court challenging the High Court order and argued before the bench of Justices J Chelameswar and SK Kaul that the three witnesses presented by the prosecution had spoken in "different language" before the trial court.