Chandigarh, Apr 13 (PTI) A day after the Punjab government favoured a court verdict convicting Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 30-year-old road rage case, the minister tried to put on a brave face, saying he was ready to carry “any burden” that he may have to because of his own government’s stance, even as Opposition demanded he quit the Cabinet.
The case against Sidhu was heard by the Supreme Court yesterday, where the state government favoured the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict convicting and awarding a three-year jail term to Sidhu. The Tourism, Culture and Local Government minister today said the “explanation” for the state government’s stand in the Supreme Court can be given by the chief minister.
“Whether I am unhappy, shocked, astonished or hurt or whatever it is on account of what the Punjab government has said (in the apex court), Sidhu’s shoulders are strong enough to carry that burden …If there is any burden, I will prefer to carry on my shoulders,” he said.
“I prefer to carry that burden on my own shoulders rather than point a finger at anybody else.” The cricketer-turned-politician also cautioned people against jumping to conclusion, saying last word on the matter has not been heard. “This is a 30-year-old matter. There is some time left for the conclusion of this matter. It will be concluded with the majesty of law. I have submitted to the majesty of law.” As far as what the Punjab government said in the Supreme Court, Sidhu said, “It was said openly. Everything has come before all. What is left for me to say.” “Whatever the Punjab government said (in court), its explanation can be given by the chief minister,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition parties including the Akali Dal and the BJP asked Sidhu to resign on moral grounds. The SAD accused the Congress government of “shielding” him.
“The continued presence of Sidhu in the Punjab cabinet is not only utterly untenable on moral grounds but is also a grave legal and constitutional absurdity, mocking the Constitution of India. He cannot remain a member of a government,” Akali leaders Bikram Singh Majithia said.
His party colleagues Daljeet Singh Cheema and Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal made similar demands. “Why the (Punjab) government lawyer did not seek increase in sentence from the Supreme Court? It is clear that the state government was helping Sidhu,” Cheema alleged.
BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh asked Sidhu to resign on moral grounds.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA and the Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira said, “It is now up to Sidhu whether he can sit in the same Cabinet and the government which finds him guilty.” A Supreme Court bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, which heard the 30-year-old case yesterday, 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 had said “there is not a single piece of evidence which suggests that the cause of death was cardiac arrest and not brain hemorrhage as concluded by the trial court”.
He had 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 had said the trial court was wrong in its finding the man died of cardiac arrest and not brain hemorrhage.
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.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.