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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday convicted Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for voluntarily causing hurt to a 65-year-old man but spared him a jail term in the 1988 road rage case and imposed a Rs1,000 fine on him.

A bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul reversed the findings of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which had convicted the cricketer-turned-politician for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and had sentenced him to three years in jail.

“A1 (Sidhu) is guilty of Section 323 of IPC. Awarded no sentence but fine of Rs1,000 for the offence," the bench said while pronouncing the judgment . Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) entails a maximum jail term up to one year or with a fine which may extend to Rs1,000 or both. The bench, however, exonerated Sidhu’s aide Rupinder Singh Sandhu, who was also awarded a three-year jail term by the high court in the case. “We have completely reversed the findings as far as A2 (Rupinder Singh Sandhu) is concerned," the bench said while acquitting him.

The apex court’s verdict came on the appeal filed by Sidhu, who had quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joined the Congress days before the Punjab Assembly elections last year, and Sandhu, challenging the high court’s 2006 judgment convicting them.

According to the prosecution, Sidhu and Sandhu were in a Gypsy parked in the middle of a road near the Sheranwala Gate Crossing in Patiala on 27 December 1988, when the victim and two others were on their way to the bank to withdraw money. When they reached the crossing, it was alleged, Gurnam Singh, driving a Maruti car, found the Gypsy in the middle of the road and asked the occupants, Sidhu and Sandhu, to remove it. This led to heated exchanges. The police had claimed that Singh was beaten up by Sidhu who later fled the crime scene. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.

Sidhu was acquitted of the murder charges by the trial court in September 1999. However, the high court had reversed the verdict and held Sidhu and Sandhu guilty under Section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC in December 2006. It had sentenced them to three years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs1 lakh each on the convicts.

In 2007, the apex court stayed the conviction of Sidhu and Sandhu in the case, paving the way for him to contest the by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

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