The top court, however, held Sidhu, the Punjab Tourism Minister, guilty of minor offence of “voluntarily causing hurt” to a 65-year-old man but spared him of a jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1000. It 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.
Despite conviction, Sidhu will not be barred from electoral politics under the Representation of the People Act as the offence under section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC does not fall under the scheduled offence entailing disqualification. Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of IPC entails a maximum jail term up to one year or with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while allowing the appeals of Sidhu and Sandhu, said the medical evidence was “absolutely uncertain” regarding the cause of death of victim Gurnam Singh.
It said the only fact established on evidence was that Sidhu gave a single fist blow on the head of the deceased Gurnam Singh but no weapon was used, nor was there any past enmity between them.
The top court held that there were lapses in the investigation but said a person cannot be convicted on basis of doubts. “No doubt that there are lapses in the investigation. We cannot hazard a guess whether such lapses occurred because of the general inefficiency of the system or as a consequence of a concerted effort made to protect the accused. The law of this country is not that people are convicted of offences on the basis of doubts,” the bench said.
With regard to a CD brought on record by the relatives of deceased in which Sidhu had purportedly made some statements about the incident, the bench said all that is avoidable for the reason that even if it is assumed that Sidhu admitted to his participation in the occurrence, but in the light of the medical evidence on record, he cannot be held guilty of causing the death of Gurnam Singh.
Dealing with the medical evidence, the bench said neither any specific details regarding the volume of the subdural hemorrhage are available on record, nor any medical opinion that this hemorrhage had caused compression of the brain that caused the death.
The court said the material on record leads to the only possible conclusion that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh, that is punishable under Section 323 of IPC. Considering that the incident is 30 years old and no weapon was used by the accused in the case, the bench said a fine of Rs 1000 would meet the ends of justice in the case.