1988 Patiala Road Rage Case: As State of Punjab Seeks Conviction Of Its Own Minister, SC Asks Who Identified Accused No.2

1988 Patiala Road Rage Case: As State of Punjab Seeks Conviction Of Its Own Minister, SC Asks Who Identified Accused No.2

On Thursday, the State of Punjab surprised everyone by seeking the conviction of its Minister of Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs, and Museums, Navjot Singh Sidhu, in the ongoing hearing of his appeal in the Supreme Court against the 2006 judgment of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which sentenced him to three years imprisonment in the 1988 Patiala road rage case, in which his alleged blows on one Gurnam Singh, resulted in the latter’s death.

The counsel for the state of Punjab submitted to the bench of Justice J.Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the pathology report is silent on heart attack suffered by the deceased, and the Prosecution Witness No.1 had maintained that the deceased had a heart/cardiac condition, and that his head injury, inflicted by Sidhu, was sufficient to cause death.  “It was a clincher”, Deol told the bench, to show that it was not a cardiac arrest.   “It is clear that the trial court went in the wrong direction, which was corrected by the high court”, Deol said explaining why trial court’s acquittal of Sidhu was erroneous.

Deol’s submissions were interrupted by repeated questioning by the bench as to who identified the Accused No.2, Rupinder Singh Sandhu, Sidhu’s co-accused in the crime.   Sandhu was reportedly sitting on the driver’s seat of the Gypsy, owned by Sidhu, which was blocking the way of the deceased’s Maruti car.   The altercation between Sidhu and the deceased happened when the latter asked Sandhu to move the vehicle ahead to give way.  Justice Chelameswar expressed his surprise that the FIR named only the accused No.1 (Sidhu), and not the Accused No.2 (Sandhu), and it is not clear who identified the latter and what stage.

Justice Chelameswar asked: “Who informed the Investigating Officer that the Accused No.2 is this?”

Finding no answer from the counsel, Justice Chelameswar turned to Sandhu’s counsel, R.Basant, and asked: “Why did you get the suspicion that you would be roped in as Accused No.2?.  In the FIR, you were not named.”

Fearing arrest, Sandhu applied for anticipatory bail, although his name was not mentioned in the FIR.

Saying it is mysterious, Justice Chelameswar added that even the chargesheet is silent on who identified Accused No.2 and when.

On what  basis the police filed the charge-sheet against Accused No.2, asked Justice Chelameswar, adding it is clearly a missing link.

During the first half of hearing on Thursday, Sidharth Luthra, senior counsel for the legal heirs of the complainant, continued his submission, explaining why a verbal duel cannot constitute a fight.  Medical report does not oust the ocular evidence, he further explained.

Referring to the extensive reliance on medical literature by the other side, Luthra said medical evidence must be put to the doctor, and the counsel can’t interpret it.   Arguing that the doubts expressed by the other side are not reasonable, Luthra said omission of fact does not affect the core, and the spontaneity of the FIR registration, soon after the commission of the crime, is a significant factor against the accused.