Navjot Singh Sidhu to surrender in Patiala court today after SC sentences him to one-year jail
Chandigarh/Patiala, May 19: Former Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu will surrender before a local court in Patiala on Friday in a 1988 road rage case, in which the Supreme Court imposed a one-year jail term on him.
Patiala District Congress Committee president Narinder Pal Lali, in a message to party supporters, said Sidhu would reach the court at 10 am. He also urged party supporters to reach the court complex around 9:30 am. After the apex court announced its decision, Sidhu's wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, reached Patiala from Amritsar around 9:45 pm.
Pronouncing the verdict on Thursday, the Supreme Court said any undue sympathy to impose an inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system and undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law.
The apex court enhanced the sentence of Sidhu to one-year rigorous imprisonment in the road rage incident in which a 65-year-old man had died. Sidhu, 58, took to Twitter to say he "will submit to the majesty of law" as the cricketer-turned-politician rode an elephant in Patiala earlier in the day to register a symbolic protest against rising prices of essential commodities.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and S K Kaul allowed a review plea filed by the victim's family on the issue of the sentence awarded to Sidhu. Though the apex court had in May 2018 held Sidhu guilty of the offence of "voluntarily causing hurt" to the 65-year-old man in the case, it spared him a jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000. "...we feel there is an error apparent on the face of record...therefore, we have allowed the review application on the issue of sentence.
In addition to the fine imposed, we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year...," the bench said while pronouncing the verdict.
When reporters sought his reaction to the verdict, Sidhu said, "No comments." The family of Gurnam Singh, who died in the incident, said they finally got justice after 34 years and thanked the Almighty.
"We are thankful and grateful to God. We have finally got justice after 34 years," Gurnam Singh's son Narvedinder Singh said. "We are satisfied with the verdict," he said over the phone.
Asked about her reaction to the verdict, Gurnam Singh's daughter-in-law Parveen Kaur said, "We thank Baba Ji (Almighty). We had left it to Baba ji. Whatever Baba Ji has done is right."
Replying to a question, Parveen Kaur said, "We are satisfied with the verdict." The family resides at Ghalori village, five kilometre from Patiala city. Sabby Singh, the grandson of Gurnam Singh, also thanked God. Taking part in the symbolic protest against rising prices of essential commodities earlier in the day, Sidhu said the rise in inflation had hit the budget of the poor, farmers, labourers and middle class families.
"Protest against inflation. Inflation devalues money of Farmers, Labourers, Middle class families, while earnings remain same. Cost of food, housing, transport & healthcare has increased by over 50%, reducing value of (Rs) 250 wage to less than (Rs) 150. Pushing crores (of) people into poverty," Sidhu said in another tweet.
Following the party's drubbing in the five states that went to polls earlier this year, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had asked the party chiefs there to resign. The Congress appointed Amrinder Singh Raja Warring in place of Sidhu after its drubbing in the Punjab assembly polls.
AICC in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Chaudhary had recently written to party president Sonia Gandhi, seeking disciplinary action against Sidhu for trying to "portray himself above the party".
In the letter dated April 23, Chaudhary had also forwarded a detailed note of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring regarding Sidhu's "current activities". Warring, in his note, had highlighted Sidhu's parallel activities and his recent meetings with expelled leaders, including former MLA Surjit Singh Dhiman. Sidhu, a former BJP MP, had switched over to the Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly polls. He was the man who was instrumental in Amarinder Singh's exit as chief minister last year.
In 2004, Sidhu began his political innings by contesting the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket from Amritsar, where he shifted his base from Patiala, and in his first election, defeated Congress heavyweight R L Bhatia. When he was in the BJP, Sidhu had frosty relations with the Badal family despite the SAD then being an ally of the BJP.
Later, his ties with the BJP also turned cold when the party fielded senior leader Arun Jaitley from Amritsar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Though he was accommodated in the Rajya Sabha later, Sidhu quit the party to join the Congress.