India Intelligence Report

 

 

 Siddhu Guilty of “Culpable Homicide”

  Former cricketer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Navjot Singh Sidhu was found guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for his role in a road-rage incident resulting in the death of a middle-aged man in 1988.
 

 

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Former cricketer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Navjot Singh Sidhu was found guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for his role in a road-rage incident resulting in the death of a middle-aged man in 1988. The HC verdict, hearing a petition of the Punjab Government and a relative of the victim, threw out a District and Sessions Court verdict that acquitted Siddhu in September 1999. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on December 6. On December 27, 1988, Siddhu, who was part of the Indian cricket team at that time, and his friends beat up Gurnam Singh who died later in a hospital. Siddhu was then charged under Section 304(II) of the Indian Penal Code.

As soon as the verdict was delivered, Siddhu resigned from the Parliament and from the BJP. His resignation letter to the Speaker of the Parliament seems to be a conditional resignation citing “an 18-year-old case arising out of an alleged road rage” and claiming to resigning "without resorting to technicalities with regard to the quantum of punishment" that would be given to him and without going into his “right to challenge the judgment.” However, this clever by half resignation was quickly rejected by the speaker “in its present form” as Rule 240 requires an MP to resign unconditionally and not with the caveats that Siddhu seemed to introduce. The said Rule clearly states that the resigning MP “shall not give any reason for his resignation.” Siddhu now says that he will not submit a new resignation and seemed to take shelter under the confusion and retain his seat by deceit while claiming to have resigned from the Parliament. However, The Lok Sabha Secretariat also pointed out that citizens may seek a bar on Siddhu or anyone if they do not get bail or is convicted at which point the matter will be sent to the President who will then direct the Election Commission to issue necessary notices. Later, Siddhu retracted earlier statements and promised to resend the letter in the right format and in conformance to rules.

As the third public figure to have been indicted and convicted of crimes Shibu Soren and Sanjay Dutt, there are already several analysis comparing Siddhu to Soren. The BJP is trying to distinguish their member Siddhu and Congress Party ally Soren saying that while Siddhu resigned voluntarily, Soren had to be forced to resign. They say that while Soren’s case was of first degree murder, Siddhu’s was third-degree “culpable homicide.” Therefore, BJP says that Siddhu would continue to be an “honorable member” of the party and “would campaign vigorously in the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab.” Predictably and correctly, the Congress condemned the BJP’s effort to portray Siddhu as a hero accusing it of “preaching morality and practicing immorality” and that a “murder is a murder.”

Siddhu himself showed no remorse for his action trying to trivialize the incident talking about Singh dying only in a hospital and not on the spot because of “destiny” and that the whole incident was an “alleged road rage” although he does say hew wants to “resign on moral grounds.” The reality was that Singh suffered from a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital.

Singh’s family which has spent an enormous amount of money pursuing Siddhu said that justice prevailed, even if it was delayed. Siddhu could face up to 10 years in prison although it is very unlikely that he will get the maximum sentence (there is no minimum time specified).