Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Navjot Singh Sidhu gets 3-year jail for road rage death

Sentence on hold till Jan. 31
By ASIT JOLLY, Chandigarh:
For mer cricketer, flamboyant television anchor and BJP Lok Sabha member Navjot Singh Sidhu has been awarded a threeyear jail sentence for manslaughter.

Having already (on Fri- day) found the batsmanturned-politician guilty on charges of beating and causing the death of 65-year-old Patiala landlord Gurnam Singh during a road rage incident 18 years ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday also ordered Sidhu to deposit a cash fine of Rs 1 lakh, but allowed him time till January 31 to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

The former player will, however, need to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 10,000 during the next few days. The news that their hero would not immediately have to go to jail evoked loud cheers and repeated volleys of slogans from the many relieved Sidhu fans who had anxiously awaited the court’s ruling on the length of his prison sentence since early in the morning.

Earlier, Justices Mehtab Singh Gill and Baldev Singh patiently heard through more than two hours of arguments from the cricketer’s counsels, the prosecution and the complainant’s lawyers. Chief defence counsel Uday U. Lalit said Sidhu should either be fined or let off on probation since the crime attributed to him was clearly unintentional and without even the slightest motive. But both the prosecution and complainant’s lawyer, Mr Vinod Ghai, sought the maximum penalty admissible under the law.

Confronted with his wildly cheering, ecstatic supporters as he emerged from the high court building, a visibly relieved Sidhu — also comforted by the prospect of going home instead of the jail at Patiala — smilingly recited suitable Urdu couplets to mark the occasion.

“God is with me and the people of Punjab and India are with me. How could I have possibly lost?” he later told reporters. Sipping what must be a very welcome cup of Darjeeling tea after the verdict at Shiromani Akali Dal president Parkash Singh Badal’s Sector 9 house here, Sidhu politely declined comment on either his conviction or the length of the jail term. “I am a sportsman and the sportsman spirit is very important to me. I have never questioned an umpire’s decision on the cricket field and I never will. All I will say is that life is full of ups and downs and the brave always emerge stronger from adversities,” he said.

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