Jennifer Saltman, The Province
Maninder Gill’s lawyers say he had a right to fear for his safety during a confrontation with a group of men outside of a temple in Surrey because of the men’s violent history and bad character.
Gill, the managing director of Radio India, is charged with five firearms offences and one count of aggravated assault in connection with a shooting that took place in August 2010.
Closing arguments in Gill’s trail began in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Thursday with submissions from defence counsel.
On Aug. 28, 2010, Gill and his family attended a wedding at the Guru Nanak Sikh temple, where Gill had been invited to deliver a speech.
According to the defence, Gill was accosted by Jaspal Atwal and his son, Vikram, as he retrieved his shoes following the ceremony. Gill alleged that Jaspal stabbed him in the hand with a sharp object and Vikram punched him.
Gill said he pushed Vikram, who fell to the ground, and then he saw a gun slide across the floor. Gill said he grabbed the gun and walked away as Vikram yelled and swore.
Gill said he was then surrounded by men, including Harjit Atwal.
Gill said he feared for his life so he fired a shot into the air to scare the men, and then shot at Harjit, hitting him in the leg.
“Mr. Gill found himself in a dire predicament. He was, in our submission, in imminent peril of at the least grievous bodily harm, and at the worst death,” said lawyer Richard Peck.
The ill will between Gill and Harjit and Jaspal began about four months before the shooting, when a Radio India reporter criticized the two men on the air. Peck said the Atwals and their families were deeply offended and of the view that Gill was responsible.
A number of incidents followed that included threats directed at Gill and his reporters.
“From April through to the end of August, Mr. Gill was starkly aware of threats levelled at him through the community and through certain acts of the Atwals,” Peck said.
“If you look at the background of the Atwals you get a sense of the substance of these threats.”
Peck said Harjit was involved in a domestic matter, was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation (which is considered a terrorist group), was charged with, but acquitted of, attempted murder in connection with the 1986 shooting of Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu, was charged with obstruction in connection with the Air India case and has been accused of defamation.
Harjit Atwal’s history demonstrates he is “a person who is capable of violence and a person whose character is very much an issue in this matter,” Peck said.
Jaspal Atwal was the shooter in the 1986 incident involving the Indian cabinet minister and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. After he was released from custody, he breached his parole. He was also accused of uttering threats and lacing pakoras with marijuana seeds, and named in a civil judgment in a vehicle “re-vinning” scheme.
Vikram Atwal has been charged with uttering threats, placed on a peace bond following a drive-by shooting, suspended from his job as a mortgage broker for making false statements on his application and was a defendant in the re-vinning case.
Peck described Vikram as a person of “ill repute.”
Aneil Atwal, Harjit’s son, was also present during the shooting. He was named as a defendant in a civil suit filed by a woman who was injured by a bullet that flew through the window of her Port Moody apartment. He has previous criminal charges.
Peck described all four men as “people who have no regard for the truth” and suggested that their evidence would have to have significant corroboration if it were to be believed.
“In our respectful submission, this is a case of reasonable doubt,” Peck said. “This is a case for the application of the defence of self defence — Crown has not negated that defence.”
Closing arguments are scheduled to continue on Friday.