A mother and uncle accused in the so-called “honour” killing of a young British Columbia woman have been ordered turned over to police in India to face trial for her murder.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge recounted the tragic details of Jaswinder (Jassi) Sidhu’s life and death on Friday as he announced the pair should be extradited.
“A reasonable jury, properly instructed, could conclude that (Surjit) Badesha is guilty of murder,” Justice Gregory Finch said.
Badesha and his sister, Malkit Sidhu, face murder and conspiracy charges in India for Jassi Sidhu’s death.
The 25-year-old Maple Ridge, B.C., woman secretly married a poor rickshaw driver on March 15, 1999. Her family members were outraged when they discovered the marriage, the judge heard.
On June 8, 2000 — following months of threats, assaults and thwarted attempts by her family to annul the union — Jassi Sidhu was found dead in a canal in India. Her throat had been slit.
It is the Canadian court’s role to determine whether a jury could convict on the evidence, not whether they should convict, Finch said. He then laid out a mountain of evidence that India has presented against Badesha, including 266 phone calls between the wealthy B.C. blueberry farmer’s home and the four men convicted of her murder in India.
“There is a substantial body of evidence that Badesha engaged in a battle of wills with Jassi and attempted at virtually every turn to prevent her from pursuing the self-determining life she aspired to.”
As for her mother, Finch said the case against Malkit Sidhu is not as strong as the case against Badesha.
“I’m nevertheless of the view that there is evidence upon which a reasonable jury, properly instructed, could convict Sidhu as a party to Jassi’s murder,” the judge said.
Indian police charged the pair for the attempted murder of Jassi Sidhu’s husband, Sukhwinder (Mithu) Sidhu, but Finch found there was not sufficient evidence and they will not be extradited to face that charge.
Finch review testimony from friends and RCMP officers, to whom Jassi Sidhu confided her love and her fears.
After her family discovered her marriage at the beginning of 2000, her mother and uncle resorted to threats and violence, the judge said. She was locked in her room. Her passport was taken away, her bank account locked.
The judge noted that at one point she was surrounded by eight to 10 family members — aunts, cousins, her mother and uncle — who hit and slapped her for refusing to abandon the union.
“Despite the emotional pressures, threats and physical abuse to which she was subjected, Jassi continued to defy her family’s wishes and returned to India to preserve her marriage and bring Mithu to Canada to live with her,” Finch said in his ruling.
Badesha’s son and brother were in court, listening as the judge laid out the reasons for his decision. Malkit Sidhu and Badesha appeared via video-link.
Dressed in a jail-issue dark green sweatsuit, Sidhu sat motionless with her hands loosely in her lap. Badesha, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit with a blue kerchief covering his head, leaned forward as the judge revisited evidence, his face dropping out of view on the courtroom monitor.
The pair fought extradition, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence to extradite.
Badesha’s lawyer suggested the passage of time and widespread coverage of the crime — including a movie and a book based on her life — made witness testimony unreliable.
Finch rejected those arguments.
Badesha, now 69, and Sidhu, 65, remain in custody until their surrender to Indian authorities. They can appeal the extradition order to the federal justice minister.
Jim Longridge, the former principal at Jassi Sidhu’s high school in Maple Ridge, was in court Friday to hear the decision.
He remembers a quiet, friendly and studious girl. He said he didn’t realize the situation she faced at home.
“I couldn’t believe she’s been murdered and apparently nothing was going to be done about it,” said Longridge, who spent years writing letters to politicians and police asking for action in Canada on her murder overseas.
“These two people — her mother and uncle — were walking around Maple Ridge as though they weren’t involved,” he said. “It wasn’t right.”