An SC bench comprising J Chelameshwar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul had earlier reserved the verdict in the matter on April 18 but cleared the air today after acquitting the minister of the more serious charge.
Reversing the High Court ruling, the apex court acquitted him of the serious charge of culpable homicide in the 1988 case. The Court has, thus, set aside the judgment of Punjab & Haryana High Court that held him guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. However, defending his government's stance in Supreme Court, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said they had no legal option available. It should be noted that Singh had succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
Sidhu's counsel RS Cheema argued before the court that the medical opinion on the cause of death of the victim, Gurnam Singh, was vague. He has been acquitted under section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and convicted under section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt).
A trial court had acquitted Sidhu in the case in which his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu was a co-accused. However, the Punjab government appealed to the top court to uphold three-year imprisonment.
The high court gave Sidhu and Sandhu a three-year jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on the convicts.
Singh was beaten up by Sidhu and later fled the crime scene.
The state said there was no evidence to suggest that Gurnam Singh died of cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage.
Sidhu, who quit the BJP and joined Congress before the previous Punjab assembly elections and is now the Tourism Minister of Punjab - and Sandhu were acquitted by the trial court in September 1999.
A year later, things seemed to finally boil down when Sidhu surrendered in a Chandigarh court, Following this, with Arun Jaitley, then senior leader, helped Sidhu get a stay on the conviction.