New Delhi, Apr 12 (PTI) Amrendra Singh-led Punjab government today favoured the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict convicting and awarding a three-year jail term to its minister Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 road rage case.

The cricketer-turned-politician, who deserted the BJP and joined the Congress days before the Punjab assembly election last year, holds the tourism portfolio in the Amrendra Singh Cabinet.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul which is hearing the 30-year-old case was told by the state government that as per the evidence Gurnam Singh, a Patiala resident, had died after he was given fist blow by Sidhu.

Appearing for the Punjab government, Advocate Sanram Singh Saron said “there is not a single evidence which suggest that the cause of death was cardiac arrest and not brain hemorrhage as concluded by the trial court”.

He said, “The trial court verdict was rightly set aside by the High Court. Accused A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) had given fist blow to deceased Gurnam Singh leading to his death through brain hemorrhage”.

Concluding his arguments, Saron said the trial court was wrong in its finding the man died of cardiac arrest and not brain hemorrhage.

Citing the inquest report, the state government said that two prosecution witnesses — Jaswinder Singh and Avtar Singh — were with Gurnam Singh when he was taken to the hospital and even there statements were recorded.

Saron said he was trying to establish the presence of the witnesses as the trial court had doubted there presence in the hospital and even disbelieved their statements in which they have identified A1 (Navjot Singh Sidhu) but have not taken the name of A2 (Rupinder Singh Sandhu), a co-accused in the case.

Secondly, Saron pointed out to the medical board report of the deceased which said Gurnam Singh had died of subdural brain haemorrhage and not cardiac arrest.

“It is beyond understanding that how has trial court arrived to its finding that Gurnam Singh had died of cardiac arrest, when there was not a discussion or evidence about it. Doctors in cross examination have said that the cause of death was head injury,” he said.

He said that prosecution witness Jaswinder Singh has given wrong number of the Car in which Sidhu had arrived at the crime scene but that was inconsequential as the first three digits of the registration number of the car were same.

The bench questioned the state government’s counsel as to at what stage did the police identified co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu who was in the vehicle and how it concluded his involvement in the crime.

Saron said after two-three days of the incident, on his visit to Kotwali police station prosecution witness Avtar Singh saw both Sidhu and Sandu and identified them but no Test Identification Parade (TIP) was conducted.

He said that when Sidhu had hit Gurnam Singh with his fists, his turban had opened up and he was hit at temporal region resulting in haemorrhage.

“My reasonable understanding is that the trial court verdict was rightly reversed by the high court as there is no evidence to even remotely suggest that the death was due to cardiac arrest,” Saron said, adding that even the false implication is ruled out as the complainant Jaswinder Singh or Gurnam Singh both brothers have no prior enmity with Sidhu or Sandhu.

Another senior advocate Siddharth Luthra appearing for complainant said that Sidhu’s sentence should be enhanced as it was a case of murder and the cricketer-turned-politician had deliberately removed keys of the deceased’s car so that he does not get medical assistance.

The hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on April 17 when Sidhu’s counsel senior advocate R S Cheema will give the rebuttal to state government’s argument.

Sidhu was acquitted of the murder charges of Gurnam Singh by the trial court in September 1999.

However, the high court reversed the verdict and held him and co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in December, 2006.

The high court sentenced them to three-year imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 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.

As per the prosecution case, Sidhu and Sandhu were allegedly present in a Gypsy parked near Sheranwala Gate Crossing on December 27, 1988, when Gurnam Singh, Jaswinder Singh and one other were going to bank to withdraw money for a marriage function.

As they reached Sheranwala Gate Crossing, Gurnam Singh driving a maruti car found a Gypsy in between the road and asked the occupant Sidhu and Sandhu to remove the vehicle for their passage following which the heated exchange took place.

Singh was beaten up by Sidhu and later fled the crime scene. The injured was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.