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Judge sends Navjot Singh Sidhu to Patiala central jail after his surrender

PATIALA: Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu surrendered before Patiala chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Amit Malhan on Friday to serve the prison term handed out to him by the Supreme Court in a 1988 road rage case, in which he was let off three years ago with a fine of meagre ₹ 1,000.

Nearly 45 minutes after Sidhu walked into his courtroom at about 4pm, CJM Amit Malhan signed off on the conviction warrant and ordered him to be sent to the Patiala central jail after a quick medical checkup at the Mata Kaushalya Hospital.

His lawyer HPS Verma told the court that Sidhu, 58, underwent surgery, is on medication and needs a special diet which should not include wheat flour. “We have apprised the court about medical and special food facilities”, Sidhu’s media adviser Surinder Dalla said, hopeful that the court will consider the request.

Patiala central jail had been prepping for its new inmate for hours. On Friday morning, Punjab’s additional director general of police Verinder Kumar made a quick visit to the prison and took stock of the security arrangements near the barrack where Sidhu is expected to be lodged.

The top police officer was briefed about the security arrangements. He cited prison rules to underscore to prison officials that there was no provision to extend special treatment to any inmate. Officials later insisted that Kumar’s visit was a routine one and Sidhu will only be one of the many high-profile inmates in the jail. Sidhu’s archrival Bikram Singh Majithia, who surrendered in a drug trafficking case in February this year, is also lodged in the Patiala Jail.

Sidhu did try to put off his surrender earlier in the day when senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi approached the Supreme Court to give Sidhu some time to surrender on medical grounds but Chief Justice of India NV Ramana declined to entertain the request.

A three-judge bench led by CJI Ramana on Thursday sentenced the Congress leader to one year in jail in a 1988 road rage case, in which he was let off three years ago with a fine of meagre ₹ 1,000.

Before starting from home at about 3.50pm – the court complex is about a kilometre away – Sidhu received political leaders who came over to express support. Many others such as Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, conveyed their support over the phone, a close aide of Sidhu said.

Among those who visited Sidhu’s house during the day were former MLAs Ashwani Sekhri, Hardial Singh Kamboj, Pirmal Singh Khalsa and Navtej Cheema, and former MP Dharamvir Gandhi.

“Sidhu has been sentenced to one year. It is not all over. He will come back and shine in politics”, Navtej Singh Cheema said, his message to Sidhu’s many critics in the Congress and outside. Like Congress leader and former deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa who has been celebrating the Supreme Court ruling, saying the top court had done what the party couldn’t do.

Cheema said it was for the party to take action against leaders such as Randhawa.

Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring and Congress Legislature Party leader Partap Singh Bajwa tweeted in support of Sidhu.

“With due respect for the verdict of the Hon Supreme Court, I stand by my senior colleague @sherryontopp ji and his family at this difficult hour,” Warring tweeted.

Leader of the opposition in the assembly, Partap Bajwa has also expressed solidarity with Sidhu. “The INC bows before the verdict of the Hon. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Punjab Congress and I will stand firmly behind @sherryontopp and his family in this difficult time”, he tweeted.

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Desk Team