New Delhi: "I have forgiven them," Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said hours after the Supreme Court held him guilty of only "voluntarily hurting" a 65-year-old man who died in a hospital after being beaten up by Mr Sidhu during a roadside brawl in Patiala in 1988. The former cricketer was let off with a fine of Rs 1,000 and he can continue as a minister in the Punjab government.
- Congress's Navjot Sidhu fined Rs. 1,000 in a 30-year-old road rage case
- Top Court finds him guilty of only "voluntarily hurting" 65-year-old man
- Gurnam Singh died in hospital after being beaten up by Mr Sidhu in 1988
Addressing the media after the ruling, the cricketer-turned-politician didn't particularly name anybody, but said that he will pray for a long life of those who criticised him.
He also phoned, he said, his boss, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, and messaged Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka that "my life is yours".
Captain Singh also "welcomed the judgement" in a tweet, "His acquittal on culpable homicide charges shows justice has prevailed. I'd always maintained that there was nothing wilful in his act, and the judges have also upheld the same. Law has duly taken its course."
Gurnam Singh, the man who was struck on the head during an argument with Mr Sidhu, died of a haemorrhage at a hospital later. Mr Sidhu argued that he had died of a cardiac arrest.
A trial court had discharged Mr Sidhu, but the Punjab and Haryana High Court held him guilty of culpable homicide in 2006 and sent him to jail for three years. In 2007, the Supreme Court suspended his sentence and granted him bail. The suspended sentence enabled him to contest the Lok Sabha bypolls from Amritsar.
Last month, when Mr Sidhu approached the top court challenging the High Court order, he was left stunned when the Punjab government backed his conviction in court.
"Couldn't possibly change a stand taken earlier... It was the only legal option available," Captain Singh had said.
The opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP combine also demanded his resignation.
Mr Sidhu, visibly relieved, said that "today it is not the time to point fingers at anyone... when you are on the side of the truth, there is no need to worry".
The former all-rounder had quit the BJP after representing Amritsar in Lok Sabha for two terms when the ticket to contest from the city went to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in 2014. He later joined the rival Congress, a party he had criticised as BJP man.
Last year, he was inducted into the Punjab government as the tourism minister, but his position did not get him any support from his erstwhile opponents.